I beg to move,
That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill gives effect to the proposals set out in the White Paper published last January, The Reorganisation of the Ports. As the House knows, these proposals are the outcome of several years' study of a complex and important industry and of a wide range of consultation. There was the Rochdale Report—(Cmnd. 1824 of 1962)—the report of a Labour Party Study Group under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) the "working document" put forward as a basis for discussion by my Ministry in 1967, and the White Paper of last January.
It is widely acknowledged that the present structure of the ports industry is inadequate. The Bill will provide for the industry a new framework within which it can plan and organise more effectively the management and development of our ports, and the carrying out of port operations, in the interests of the nation.
The Bill has four main objectives. First, it establishes a strong National Ports Authority which can make a reality of central planning and co-ordination; the lack of central planning was recognised as a fundamental defect in our ports organisation at least as long ago as 1962, when the Rochdale Committee reported.
Secondly, the Bill provides clear lines of management responsibilities. The National Ports Authority and its subsidiary port boards will be responsible to Parliament and the country for the effective management of the major ports. Their members will be appointed on this basis and not, as most port authority members now are, as representatives of particular interests.
Thirdly, the Bill aims to cut down drastically the multiplicity of employing interests in the ports and to reduce the fragmentation and waste which at present bedevil the provision of port services.
Finally, the Bill marks a further step forward in the field of industrial relations in the docks with its new emphasis on worker participation.
Everyone who has studied the subject has agreed that we need a strong national ports policy. As I have said, the Rochdale Committee expressed the need for a national policy and found the lack of any central planning a fundamental defect According to the Financial Times of 13th December last, the main theme of an address by Mr. Tonge, Chairman of the National Association of Port Employers, was that
Britain's docks, and their labour relations in particular, were in such disarray that a strong central authority was needed to restore order.
The Chamber of Shipping has also recently expressed itself in favour of reinforcing the powers of the central Ports Authority.
It has been suggested that instead of the form of reorganisation proposed in the Bill, all we need do is to strengthen the powers of the National Ports Council. The council has undoubtedly done a valuable job within its powers, and I place on record the Government's appreciation of the vigorous way it has tackled its duties. But the council is only an advisory body, and it is now generally acknowledged that the Rochdale Committee was right in concluding that a council with purely advisory functions would not be sufficiently effective or influential.
This seems to be the view of the Chamber of Shipping as set out in its statement yesterday. But, like Lord Rochdale, it questions the wisdom of endowing a central Ports Authority with wide powers of intervention in practically every aspect of port operation.
But, it seems to me, if a body is given executive powers, it must have executive responsibility as well. It must act in the knowledge that it is fully accountable for its policies. This is why we propose to create a National Ports Authority on the lines set out in the Bill.
The Ports Authority will have a general duty to keep under review the suitability and adequacy of the harbours of Great Britain in relation to the country's trade. This general planning function will extend to harbours not under the charge of the Authority, but it is not the intention that it should intervene in the management of those harbours not under its charge. The Authority will thus be able to advise the Minister either on his request or on its own initiative, on any matter affecting the suitability and adequacy of the country's harbours.
At the outset we propose to place the major ports of the country under the charge of the National Ports Authority—that is, those harbours in which more than 5 million tons of goods are loaded or unloaded in a year—together with all the harbours of the British Transport Docks Board. The figure of 5 million tons of trade clearly marks off the major harbours from the smaller harbours. The harbours involved handle nearly nine-tenths of the trade of the country, and the vast majority of port transport workers, including 95 per cent. of registered dock workers, are employed in them.
Although long-term planning and proper financial control require a central authority, the day-to-day management of the harbours placed under the charge of the N.P.A. must retain flexibility to respond to local requirements and conditions.
I would have thought that Bristol was a major port, and that a Member for the city would agree. It is for that reason that it is included. We have not broken down the ports into their separate enclosed docks, otherwise in London or Mersey we would have had a great number of special provisions. It is the port board that is the criterion. I should be astonished if the hon. Gentleman pressed the point that Bristol was not a major port.
The Minister is completely misrepresenting what I said. What I wanted to get out of him was the reason why he wanted within the scope of the Bill to grab the land and possessions of the citizens of Bristol in the obsolete city docks in the middle of the city, which we need to redevelop for quite other purposes.
If the hon. Gentleman studies the Bill he will see that this contingency, land not required for port purposes, is covered. I am having discussions early next week with the Association of Municipal Corporations on some of the points it is raising from this point of view.
The National Port Authority will, therefore, be required to set up port boards which will be substantially responsible, under the N.P.A., for day-to-day management. Thus, local initiative and local patriotism will be brought into play. Whilst working to national policies the port boards will have the incentive to achieve results which will bring local benefits.
Under this organisational structure the Authority itself will retain responsibility for establishing sound economic and financial policies and management objectives for its sector of the ports industry, for making the best use of resources of management and investment, for pricing policies, and for promotion of training and research.
The establishment of strong and soundly-based financial policies will be high on the N.P.A.'s list of priorities. As the House knows, many of our ports, including some of the largest, have financial problems and the changes facing the industry—heavy investment, new operating methods, labour agreements—have substantial financial implications.
I must, therefore, make it clear that we are not taking over a prosperous industry. The industry is capable of making an enormous contribution to our economy, but not until it is rationalised and developed in a co-ordinated way.
The best assessment that I can make, therefore, suggests that the overall financial prospects of the ports likely to be taken over by the N.P.A. are by no means good; nevertheless, the forecasts that can at present be made are not firmly enough based to justify writing any specific measures of financial relief into the Bill. I would certainly not feel justified in putting forward proposals which pretended to reflect in detail the future financial prospects of the industry; which, for example, incorporated some form of capital reconstruction aimed at ensuring immediate viability.
The financial provisions of the Bill itself are inevitably complex. The financial powers and duties of the National Ports Authority follow closely those of the other nationalised transport undertakings adapted to the particular needs of the ports.
Doubts have been expressed that a single overall financial duty for the N.P.A. may lead to inefficiency in individual ports, and to forms of cross-subsidisation which would be harmful to the industry. I agree that this must be avoided, and I confirm that the policy of the Government is to encourage competition on service and on price between individual ports in the public sector. With this in mind, pricing policies should be related to the cost of the services provided.
I am very happy to repeat the assurance given by my predecessor to the Milford Haven Conservancy Board, which was concerned that the charges at Milford Haven might be increased to subsidise ports elsewhere, that cross-subsidy of this kind is not contemplated.
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman at this point, because although he may give an assurance that cross-subsidisation is not contemplated there could be another Minister at another time. Also, there could be powers in the Bill to do things that he never expected to be carried out. What would he his answer to the request that we would wish to have something more firm than what he has said if his intentions are really to be carried out?
I have given an assurance on behalf of the present Government. Whether the hon. Gentleman will be here to ask for one in another Parliament remains to be seen. I cannot go beyond the present Administration.
With respect to those hon. Members who ask for this, it would be extremely difficult to frame such legislation, because there is great scope for argument about what elements of cross-subsidisation might arise. I suspect that we shall have a few sittings in Committee when, no doubt, these points will be brought out.
I would expect the N.P.A., as soon as it can, so to organise the affairs of its port boards that cross-subsidy would be unnecessary. Financial targets will be set for the N.P.A. under the usual arrangements for nationalised industries, and the Authority will, in turn, set financial targets for individual port boards. Moreover, tae Minister will have to give directions on the form of accounts to be used by the N.P.A. I can assure the House that these accounts will include sufficient detail to enable the financial results of individual port boards to be seen.
Returning to the Milford Haven point, I have already undertaken to convey the strong representations I have had about its being a separate board to the Ports Authority. Whether or not there had been the cross-subsidisation about which it is concerned would be evident when the accounts of its own board were published.
One other basic financial provision I should mention is the borrowing proposals. In the borrowing powers and limits of the Authority under Clause 13(1) of the Bill, we have taken account of all the existing liabilities which the Authority will take over from the British Transport Docks Board, port trusts and local authorities. We have also provided for compensation and severance payments where appropriate; for acquisition of port businesses and perhaps of further harbours; for working capital and for new borrowings for investment.
As is normal for nationalised undertakings, we have provided that the borrowing limits should be in two stages: the first limit of £600 million should be sufficient to last for three years or so, when it will be necessary to come back to Parliament for approval of the increase to the higher level of £750 million.
I now turn to compensation for the ports to be taken over initially. For a very large proportion of the ports to be placed under the charge of the N.P.A., compensation is not at issue. The under- takings of port trusts and of local authorities are already in public ownership, and there is a well-precedented method of transferring such undertakings to national ownership. The British Transport Docks Board is already nationally owned. The Ports Authority will take over the liabilities of these undertakings to meet interest and repayment of capital on debts relating to the transferred assets. There will also be provision, in the case of local authorities, for a "severance" payment if expense is incurred in the allocation of administrative costs to the remaining activities of the authority.
Compensation in the proper sense of the word arises only in the case of company ports; in the White Paper we gave details of the position of the main company port—very possibly the only one to be affected—the Manchester Ship Canal Company.
Here again, there are precedents in other similar statutes, and we have followed them. The basis of compensation will be the market value of the securities, computed over whichever of two periods of time is more favourable to the holders. The basis was described very fully in the White Paper, and I do not think that I need go into detail about it today. But obviously, the speculation which would have resulted from leaving the situation open since the time of publishing the White Paper until the time of vesting of the assets would have been totally unacceptable.
It is impossible to quote a precise figure for compensation. Assuming, however, that Manchester is the only company undertaking in question, and Bristol the only local authority, the basis of valuation referred to in the White Paper and incorporated in the Bill would give a sum for compensation and severance on initial vesting which we do not think would be greater than £25 million.
Bristol would not be treated for compensation in the same way as Manchester. There is a well-established process for transfer from local authority to national ownership, or, as with roads, from national to local authority ownership.
I am aware of these proposals. Events before vesting date will not come under these arrangements at all.
I turn now to another priority task of the N.P.A.: to establish the arrangements for local day-to-day management of its ports. In practical management terms, the Authority will act as though it was a holding company having subsidiary companies free to compete with each other within general policy guide lines. With this intention, Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill require the Authority to discharge its functions through port boards. There must be a port board for each harbour, though a single port board may cover more than one harbour. In line with our objective of establishing clear lines of responsibility and accountability, the N.P.A. will appoint the members of the port boards. The N.P.A. which will have ultimate responsibility, will have power to give directions to the port boards as to the discharge of their functions, in much the same way as a holding company exercises its rights over its subsidiary companies.
Although the representational type of port authority board will cease under the N.P.A., we recognise that it is necessary—and right—that users of the ports should be able to make their views and interest known. For this purpose, a system of advisory committees is proposed—at both local and national level —to advise the port boards and the National Ports Authority. These committees will be able to consider any matters relating to the N.P.A.'s functions. Appointments to these committees will be made after consultation with a wide range of interests, including shipowners, importers and exporters, the fishing industry, local authorities and trade unions.
The committees will be able to consider and discuss charging and pricing questions with the boards, but will not be empowered to make recommendations to the Minister on these matters. The Minister will, under Clause 17 of the Bill, become the appellate authority in relation to objections about ship, passenger and goods dues.
The N.P.A., under Clause 29, will have power to submit to the Minister a scheme for making it the harbour authority for further harbours. Some fear has been expressed that this power may inhibit the future improvement and development of non-nationalised harbours. But I must stress that there is no automatic provision for taking over a harbour if and when it reaches the 5 million tons mark. I must, on the other hand, make it clear that there is no limit which stops a harbour having under 5 million tons of trade being taken over in future. But any scheme put forward by the N.P.A. will be open to objections which must be heard by a public inquiry, and would ultimately be subject to special parliamentary procedure.
I now come to the Government's proposals about the ownership and operation of port facilities and the employment of dock labour. The multiplicity of operators and employers breeds a division of responsibilities which affects working arrangements and employment conditions. If these divisions are removed we can simplify organisation, reduce possibilities of friction and get better industrial relations, better working methods and greater efficiency.
Anyone who is familiar with industrial negotiations understands that the fewer people who have to be consulted on each side round the table. the better and easier it is to make progress. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman, from his seated position, suggests that the employers are responsible for strikes because of their multiplicity, I could rot agree with that.
I am sure that it will be easier and better when there are fewer employers. That is why the Government propose that the N.P.A., operating through the port boards, should become the principal operators of port facilities and services within their ports and, by virtue of this, the principal employers of port labour.
It would not make sense, however, to require the N.P.A. to operate all port facilities; for example, oil jetties, or certain other private wharves which are integrated into another transport or industrial activity.
What the Minister has said about the single employer would lead one to the conclusion that the nationalised undertakings in Britain have a better record of labour relations than private industry. Has the Minister made any inquiries or comparisons on this subject before making his statement?
I have. To take one obvious example, anyone who has lived as long as I have is conscious of the difference in industrial relations in the coal industry now as compared with the 1930s.
Clause 33 places a duty upon the N.P.A. in the first year following the vesting date to apply to the Minister for vesting orders for all port businesses at its harbours, with certain exceptions relating to port businesses of manufacturers and producers. A port business for this purposse is, broadly, one carrying on acti- vities of loading or unloading cargo, or warehousing, sorting, weighing, movement, lighterage or handling of goods which are to be or have been loaded or unloaded as cargo, or cargo checking and identifying operations, or managing a cargo wharf.
There is provision in Clauses 35 and 37 for objections to be made by persons carrying on port businesses on various grounds. These will provide an opportunity for the particular conditions and circumstances under which individual port businesses are operated to be considered before a decision is made about a vesting order: for example, "through transport" operations, or merchants' private wharves.
These proposals balance the need for the N.P.A. to proceed speedily with its proposals against the need to allow particular cases to be brought forward for consideration of objections. But the clear underlying aim of Part II of the Bill is that the N.P.A., acting through port boards, should become the principal operator of port facilities and should be the principal employer of the port transport workers at its harbours.
At this point, I should mention to the House a change which has been made in the White Paper proposals. The White Paper proposed that operations carried on by cargo superintendents in checking and recording cargo should be excluded from takeover. However, the type of operation carried on by these people is also carried on by others, in some instances by stevedoring companies or port authorities.
It would, therefore, I felt, be difficult to say that these operations should always be exempted from takeover, and still more difficult to say that they should always be exempted if carried on by a particular type of person. The Bill therefore does not contain a provision exempting cargo superintendents. Instead, there is a special ground of objection where a business consists wholly or mainly in the carrying out of cargo checking and identifying operations and it can be shown that the services provided are of the nature that should be available independently of the N.P.A.
I now turn to worker participation. Clause 41 of the Bill provides for the establishment of adequate machinery for negotiations and consultation with employees of the National Ports Authority. Hon. Members will realise that it is modelled on Section 137 of last year's Transport Act, which itself represented an advance on previous provisions in this field. But it includes an entirely new and forward-looking provision. For the first time, it is explicitly stated in this Bill that one of the aims of establishing this machinery is to be the furtherance of the participation of persons employed by the N.P.A. in the processes leading to the taking of management decisions.
Clause 41 is, of course, entirely consistent with the Government's general thinking that the most effective way in which workers can ensure that their views are taken into account is through membership of a trade union. But the addition of the new aim of the negotiating and consultative machinery takes matters a big step further.
It will be for the N.P.A. and the unions to work out the agreed machinery for giving effect to this Clause, and, clearly, it is right that the two sides should do this, rather than that Parliament should attempt to lay down detailed machinery in the Bill. An essential prerequisite to successful participation or consultation is surely agreement by this process of the machinery to be established.
The N.P.A. and the unions will be able to take account of the circumstances existing in each port and build up the machinery in step with the progress made with the reorganisation and to meet the particular circumstances encountered and the problems that have to be dealt with. The N.P.A. will, however, be required to report on the progress, or lack of progress, in arriving at agreements for setting up machinery, and the Minister may call for such reports from time to time. In this way, we shall be able to keep in touch with progress, see where difficulties and problems are occurring and consider what action is possible to remove them.
In this context, I should also draw attention to the omission from the Bill of the usual statutory provision about conflicts of interest, which, I am advised, might impose an obstacle to some appointments of worker representation to the boards. It is clear that I should not appoint to boards people who have in- terests which would prejudice the proper discharge of their duties. But I believe that any statutory limitation should be confined to what is really necessary in the light of modern conditions and, as the House knows, my right hon. Friend the First Secretary is considering the general question of the appointment of worker representatives to the boards of undertakings.
The Bill, therefore, contains no provision, apart from a power to make regulations, on this point, so as to leave open all options at this stage as to the kind of workers' representation to be established.
When my right hon. Friend is considering the options, will he consider the possibility of not making appointments from outside the industry, even by the trade unions, but of the workers within the industry electing their representatives directly to the boards?
There are two separate points here. Arrangements for participation are not a matter for me, but will have to be worked out by the authority and the unions concerned.
I do not think that it would be right for me to give an undertaking as to who should or should not be appointed to the boards, but there is no provision in the Bill, and I would not think it right that there should be, for the election of members to the N.P.A.
The reason for not having the provision to which I referred is so that full-time union officials—after all, they are at present members of the Port of London and the Merseyside boards—could, for example, be part-time members of the boards, although I am not sure that this is always a most satisfactory arrangement.
As the N.P.A. takes over more ports operations and become the principal employers of port transport workers, it will have the decisive voice on the employers' side of the industry, and I envisage that the remaining private employers would wish to be associated with the machinery established by the N.P.A. which would then replace the existing National Joint Council, which covers only registered dock workers.
The private employers will be encouraged to associate themselves with the machinery established by the N.P.A. by virtue of the provisions made in Clause 42 of the Bill, which require them to observe terms and conditions of employment not less favourable than those of the N.P.A.'s employees engaged in comparable work. The purpose of this guarantee of minimum standards is to protect the interests of workers not employed by the N.P.A. This principle is not new, and indeed a somewhat similar provision was made in Section 8 of the Terms and Conditions of Employment Act, 1959.
The way ahead in industrial relations is signposted by the provisions I have just mentioned. The White Paper also envisaged consultations between the Government and the interests concerned before a decision was taken about the future administration of the Dock Labour Scheme—but not about changes in the scheme itself—after the National Ports Authority had been set up. Following the consultations, however, the Government have concluded that no change should be made in the administration of the scheme as suggested in the White Paper.
From these discussions I am, however, encouraged by the readiness expressed by the unions to review with the National Ports Authority, once it is set up, the working of the Dock Labour Scheme in the light of the progress with the reorganisation and with the development of more effective industrial machinery.
I have spoken at length about the organisation proposed by the Bill. I understand that all aspects of it do not command universal approval, but there is near universal agreement that radical change is needed in the existing system. I believe, also, that there is widespread support inside the industry and outside for the framework we propose and, in particular, for strong central control and direction.
A lot has been done in recent years in the modernisation of our port facilities and working methods, following the Rochdale and Devlin reports, but we have a long way still to go and a further major step forward is required and should now be taken.
Hon. and right hon. Members will have seen the statement of the Chamber of Shipping and will have noted the second paragraph:
Shipowners are chiefly concerned that whatever form of organisation is finally adopted should end the uncertainty by which current port operations have been crippled for too long. They are, therefore, horrified at the possibility that the industry might become a political shuttlecock. This would be very damaging not only to shipping as such, but to the trade and, indeed, the economy of the country as a whole.
I agree that we need to end any uncertainty there is and I shall do all I can to ensure that the National Ports Authority is established at the earliest possible date. To this end I am setting up machinery to bring together some people from inside the industry and some from outside so that as much advance planning and preparatory work as possible can be undertaken.
In the first instance, in order to make progress this will be a suitably high-level working party under a senior official of my Ministry; but I contemplate that this will develop in due course into an organising committee under, I would hope, the prospective chairman of the authority. I am confident that once the House has approved the main lines of the Bill the whole industry will be ready to co-operate to prepare the ground as thoroughly as we can for the new authority.
The President of the Chamber of Shipping, Mr. Francis Hill, recently said that what is desperately needed is a modernised, efficient, competitive and reliable ports system. We can all agree with that, But we must also agree that it is easier to say than to achieve.
The Bill before us is not an easy substitute for the exacting painstaking and continuous effort of port managements and trades unions necessary to refashion our major ports to meet and anticipate the increasing and changing demands of the country's trade. But it will provide a modernised structure and a better framework of organisation and thus give a much better chance for the development of sound practices and good industrial relations, so essential for the success of this industry.
I commend the Bill to the House.
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) on the Minister's speech, a speech very much to his liking, no doubt, and very much in the spirit of the report which he prepared speedily and efficiently after a series of lightning trips to various docks to tell the Labour Party what it should do about the nationalisation of the ports and docks. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on reaching this point after a number of struggles with various Ministers and accusing the Government of dragging their feet. It is appropriate that, after a day on which the hon. Member and some of his hon. Friends did not support the Government, as a Christmas bonus they have this Measure today.
We congratulate the Minister on putting forward Left-wing nationalisation proposals in such a moderate and calm way as to make them almost sound reasonable. That is a considerable achievement, and the right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated upon it.
I repeat the quotation which the right hon. Gentleman used from the Press hand-out of the Chamber of Shipping:
They are therefore horrified at the possibility that the industry might become a political shuttlecock.
That is exactly what the Minister is doing by this Bill.
I quote from Lloyd's List of 17th December:
It would be easy enough for the Conservative Party's eager spokesman to make plenty of fire-breathing speeches about local autonomy, centralised bureaucracy and full unfettered enterprise during the debate on the Bill. But before he does so, he might be well advised to listen to the port employers, and find out just how the men who actually have to run the ports think their job could most efficiently be done.
We have read the Lloyd's List. We have done exactly that. That is why we are able to say with complete confidence that the majority of port employers are opposed to the Bill. I hope that, when the hen. Gentleman's turn comes to contribute to the debate, he will tell us about all the port employers in Bristol, Manchester and other places who oppose the Bill.
The tragedy of the situation is that, until now, we have had in this country a mixture of nationalised ports and docks, free enterprise ports and docks, and local authorities ports and docks, and the ownership question was not, until the hon. Member for Poplar began his great campaign, the crucial issue. It has been recognised by both parties that there is need for a central authority. If the Government were to put a large amount of future investment into our ports and docks, that was a recognised requirement. It was the Conservative Government who set up the Rochdale Commission. It was the Labour Opposition to that Conservative Government who accepted the Conservative Party's legislation on that topic, setting up the National Ports Council.
I think that, on reflection, most people connected with the shipping industry were agreed that there was need to give added strength to the National Ports Council. There is no basic dispute on all that. Much more could be achieved in modernisation and improvement of the ports and docks, and in strenthening the position of the National Ports Council, without bothering to go in for the public ownership, which is the main purpose of the Bill.
It is interesting that in the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech there was really no case made for public ownership. The right hon. Gentleman put the case for having one employer—presumably, he meant in a port or dock—but if he meant over the whole country, there will not be one employer. He is leaving out a number of ports and docks, all those with less than 5 million tons. The user ports, with one or two exceptions, are left out of these proposals. So the right hon. Gentleman is not achieving only one employer nation-wide.
If the right hon. Gentleman is arguing for one employer in each of the major ports and docks, I should have thought that here again this could have been done under the existing framework if it was considered important.
But international knowldeae on this topic shows that that has not proved to be a great advantage. Few people would criticise Rotterdam and Antwerp. In Antwerp there ha not been a strike for 15 years, and it does not work on the one-employer principle. I think that it goes rather to the other extreme. They endeavour to bring people with an interest in efficient running to the docks and lease the berths to them. That principle could probably have been extended to a greater degree in this country. There was, therefore, no case whatever in terms of public ownership, and neither can it be said that the private sector had failed.
What about the private enterprise ports which remain? There is no strong case against Manchester; it cannot be regarded as a thoroughly inefficient port compared, for instance, with some of the nationalised ports elsewhere in the country.
The hon. Gentleman claims that I made out no case for public ownership. The case is quite simple. We accept what he and others have said about the need for a stronger central body. Our view is that one cannot give excutive powers to such a body, particularly in the expenditure of large sums of public money, without it being accountable and responsible, which the present public trust bodies in the ports are not.
The case against the right hon. Gentleman, from the standpoint of that argument, is that those primarily concerned with running the industry—the port authorities themselves, the Chamber of Shipping, the users, the Confederation of British Industry—all those bodies, both users and operators, disagree with the Minister. They disagree because they believe that our ports and docks will be more efficiently run if we continue to encourage competition.
Let us consider the private enterprise ports. First, I take Manchester. There is, as I say, no case for saying that private enterprise has been less efficient than the publicly owned or nationalised ports. No reference to that was made by the Minister. Ports such as Felixstowe are being left out, and everybody knows that Felixstowe has been a great success. After this legislation, however, shall we have another Felixstowe? With the powers under the Bill, Felixstowe will continue under threat, and the obtaining of new investment for such a place as Felixstowe in the future will be far more difficult.
Felixstowe and ports like it have given a lead. Manchester has given a lead in container shipping, for example, and shown great enterprise.
The outstanding fact in regard to Manchester is that it is the one port in this country which has a single cargo-handling organisation. That is the secret of its success, which ought to be applied elsewhere.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for illustrating so clearly that the one-employer principle can be achieved without nationalisation. That is the point. If it is to the advantage of a free enterprise port to bring in such a system, it is able to do it. As the hon. Gentleman says, it has been done in Manchester.
There is, therefore, no case made out against private enterprise. All people who are knowledgeable about shipping, ports and docks will agree that, over the last decade, a number of private enterprise ports have shown a remarkable success story which has been of advantage to the whole industry. Those of us who have been to such places as Felixstowe have been most impressed by the enthusiasm shown there.
Now, the local authority ports. The Minister made no case for arguing that it would be a bad thing to leave these with their local authorities. A strong case can be made, on the other hand, for the advantages of a local authority such as Bristol taking a major interest in such an important city function as its port.
What we have before us is a doctrinaire proposal for nationalisation, a proposal—in the words of the Chamber of Shipping—which makes the whole port and dock industry a shuttlecock of politics. That is the tragedy.
We on this side have not introduced legislation to denationalise the existing nationalised ports and docks, and we have not endeavoured to legislate to take away the ports from local authorities. The Bill before us, however, is a fitting Measure to come from a Labour Government as their last legislative act of the 1960s. It is a doctrinaire move. It does nothing to improve the efficiency of the ports and docks—
The hon. Gentleman has spoken of a political shuttlecock. Could it be that the reason for the Chamber of Shipping saying that was the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) in Southampton recently when he said what the Conservatives would do if they got back into power?
The view of the Chamber of Shipping is quite clear. In its Press hand-out, it says that it is against the proposals in the Bill, and it considers that the whole approach to public ownership is unnecessary.
As regards the past, it is regrettable that so much good advice has been thrown away. Lord Rochdale, who did such good work in preparing his Report, and to whom hon. Members on both sides will pay tribute for what he did when he first became chairman of the Council, has made clear, from his considerable experience in the matter—no one will accuse him of being doctrinaire, and I do not even know what his politics are—that nationalisation has nothing to do with the problems facing the ports and docks and is completely unnecessary.
I come now to the effect on a number of specific ports and docks. First, I take Bristol. The interesting fact in regard to Bristol is that a central authority did make a recommendation; it agreed some time ago that Bristol shrould go ahead with a substantial development of its port facilities, but this was rejected by the Government. The Government's record in Bristol is deplorable. When the Port-bury scheme was put up, recommended by the central authority, it was turned down on political grounds by the Government of the day. There must have been many shipping companies and others who reflected, after all the recent troubles at Tilbury, on the great tragedy that the Labour Government did not allow the Portbury scheme to go ahead, for if they had there would have been a major container terminal available at Portbury.
Does the hon. Gentleman recall also that the South West Economic Planning Council specifically recommended that the Port-bury scheme be proceeded with, yet the Government, who had set up the plan- ning council, refused to accept that recommendation?
That is so. The Government have a long record of being hostile to Bristol and its Portbury scheme.
What of the future for Bristol under the Bill? Today, it is a local authority-controlled port. Hon. Members opposite who represent Bristol constituencies will agree that the port has been run on non-political lines, that both Conservative and Labour councillors, whichever party has been in power in Bristol, have got down to the hard work of trying to run the port as efficiently as possible. They have taken considerable pride in it.
Will the Government tell us what is intended as regards compensation for Bristol? I have obtained the figures of its valuation of the present ports and docks. The replacement value today would be £100 million. The written down value is £44 million. There is a substantial value in the whole city dock area, which Bristol has already applied for permission to develop.
The Minister used a phrase to the effect that events which have already taken place would be taken into consideration. What does that mean? Does it mean that the Government will treat the city docks as they are now as docks, in which case Bristol would obtain no compensation and no benefit to the city whatever, or does it mean that, because the city has laid a Bill before Parliament, that will be taken as an established event, although the Bill has not reached the Statute Book, and the full benefit will be obtained? If nothing is done for Bristol, the effect of the Bill will be to rob the people of that city of an asset which they themselves have built up.
What is the position as regards the future development of Bristol? Is it likely that Bristol will steadily be strangled as a port, as has tended to be the whole basis of Government policy towards Bristol in the past?
I am the Member for Bristol, Central, in which the City docks are mainly situated. The present Conservative majority on the Bristol City Council is proposing a Bill to extinguish navigational rights in the city docks. This proposal was rejected by a four to one majority at a town's meeting of Bristol citizens only last week.
The hon. Gentleman may express that view, but it is a dangerous principle, and I imagine that, on reflection, he would not pursue it. He knows very well that the local authority—both Conservative and Labour councillors—wishes to go ahead with developing the port of Bristol at a far faster rate than has been allowed by the Government. This has been stopped. If they had allowed Portbury to go ahead, it would now be a major port with flourishing trade.
So far as Bristol is concerned, I agree that it is political. This Government have treated Bristol scandalously during the whole of their period in office. I will do all in my power to bring to the attention of the electors of Bristol how badly they have been neglected by a Labour Government.
To turn to Manchester, the port provides employment for the people of Manchester and is important to the city of Manchester which itself manages the port. It is in a unique position in the sense that it is the major inland port in the country, with all the facilities of the Manchester Ship Canal. It is run profitably and, under both Conservative and Labour administration in the city, has operated for the benefit of the people of Manchester for many years. I see no justification for bringing that port into public ownership.
If it is brought into public ownership, will it be grouped with Liverpool? If so, what are the chances of its future survival? I should like to know what will be the future situation of Manchester docks. It is easy in theory to say that Manchester as a port should not be there at all, as many have said in the past. I do not know whether or not the hon. Member for Poplar agrees with that. All I can say is that a passage in his particular publication frightened the people of Manchester. I hope that the Minister will be fair with Manchester and clearly say whether he thinks the port of Manchester has a considerable and expanding future or will be sacrificed as part of rationalisation after nationalisation takes place.
I am sorry, I have given way many times and should like to have the opportunity to continue with my arguments.
To turn to the two main user ports left in the legislation, the Medway ports and Milford Haven, I find it remarkable that Milford Haven is included in the Bill. I gather that if the Government had not done so this legislation would have been hybrid, resulting in certain parliamentary difficulties. If this is the excuse for including it, then it is a poor one.
Milford Haven is a port run and owned by the oil companies. Nationalisation will take over canal wharves and one tug. It will upset a system of highly successful management there which has worked well. If one takes as the principle that the Government will not touch the user ports which deal with one commodity, then it is a perfect reason for leaving out Milford Haven since it deals with only one commodity.
As for the Medway ports, if one takes away the oil that goes into them the balance left is just below the figure of 5 million tons. The Medway ports are concerned that in future they will be gobbled up by the Port of London Authority. As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary lives near to that part of the world and has a specific local interest, he will know all about the anxieties of the Medway ports that they will become a small part of the Port of London Authority set-up for the future.
Those ports are efficiently run, they have been successful and have attracted a great deal of business. There is therefore no reason why both the Medway ports and Milford Haven should not have been left out of the Bill.
I turn to the South Wales ports. Eighteen months ago I spent two days visiting the South Wales ports and was most impressed with the work carried out and the increasing activity there. I recognise their fears about the development of Portbury which they believe will detract from their trade. The enterprise of these ports under nationalisation has been considerable. The valuable timber terminal has been highly successful and there has been a new development at Barry involving the banana trade. All these have been enterprising features.
What will happen now to the South Wales ports? Up to the present they have been a major part of the nationalised port set-up. A great deal of attention has been given to the South Wales ports. They have attracted business not on the one-employer principle but on the basis of Rotterdam and Antwerp in encouraging people like timber companies and the banana companies to start new enterprises in South Wales. This is completely against the spirit of this legislation. It is also very much against the spirit of the words of the Minister of Transport this afternoon who went out of his way to say that the facilities in the Bill to enable independent employers to come in would be used very sparingly.
I do not believe the existing nationalised ports which have been large fish in a small nationalised sea will do anywhere near as well once they become very small fish in a very much larger nationalised sea. Certainly the enter- prise shown in the South Wales docks in the past few years may be endangered by this Bill.
The Government have operated on two principles. The first principle of the one emloyer is answered by international experience. The other principle involving the figures of the 5 million tons will leave out a number of smaller ports. All those smaller ports remain in a situation of continuing uncertainty about their future. The Minister made clear this afternoon that if they reach the 5 million ton mark they might be taken into nationialisation, and even if they do not reach that figure they still might be taken into nationalisation.
This Measure will give an open cheque for the nationalisation of those ports should the Socialist Government wish to do so. This is the climate in which these smaller, private enterprise ports are trying to encourage investment in future.
The Minister has made it clear that he wants an open position for further nationalisation. Why could not he have left these ports in a position of greater certainty about their future? If they are to be brought into public ownership, that threat will now hang over them. If any of these ports are highly successful, the Government will regard that as being against the interests of the public sector since it will take business away. If this happens, the Government will come forward for powers to stop them. That is the principle. That is why the Minister has left the position open. [Interruption.] Apparently the Joint Parliamentary Secretary agrees that that is the situation. The situation for these highly enterprising ports is one of continuing uncertainty.
I now come to the matter of cross-subsidisation, a matter on which the Minister was vague indeed. We welcome his assurance that he will try to avoid it. A similar remark was made in another place. But he soon had to admit from the Dispatch Box that it is almost impossible to frame legislation to stop cross-subsidisation. It is very difficult to frame legislation to stop it because it is difficult to stop it. With a central authority of this kind, it will not be possible to sort out tire exact costings and publish in detail what is required. In fairness to the British Transport Docks Board, that body has endeavoured to do it over the years, but on a smaller scale.
The doctrine adumbrate at the moment is economic nonsense. No one tries to avoid cross-subsidisation altogether. It cannot be done. Private companies cross-subsidise between one product and another and between one area and another. If there were no cross-subsidisation, there would be no aircraft services in the Highlands and Islands and no electricity on Welsh hill farms. What sort of rubbish is this?
I agree that the hon. Gentleman does it better than I can. I concede that. But here we have the Minister saying that he will stop it, and then the hon. Member for Poplar, who has constructed the whole scheme, says that it must not be stopped because basically it is a sensible principle. It is done in B.E.A., he says. It is done in free enterprise, he says. It will be done in the ports and docks—he says. But that is not what the Minister says. He has tried to give assurances that it will not happen—
So the exchange ends with the hon. Member for Poplar pointing to his right hon. Friend and saying, "He will learn". What he has learned so far from the hon. Member for Poplar has been to the detriment of the country, so that I hope that he will not learn too much.
We know that cross-subsidisation will take place, but we will endeavour to amend the Bill to prevent it. I am sure that the Minister, who is anxious to prevent it, will look carefully at our Amendments, and I hope that he will join us in supporting them. We look forward to debating them.
The other important aspect of the Bill, concerns costs. The Minister referred to the sum of £25 million for Bristol and Manchester. He gave no figure for the costs of buying up the various employer interests in the ports and docks and paying compensation. There is a strong obligation in the Bill for that to be done. Before deciding to do it, surely some costings have been undertaken. The Government will have to pay compensation unless they get special permission not to. How many millions of £s will be paid to these firms in compensation?
Having published a White Paper on public expenditure saying how short money is and how the Government have to cut down on all sorts of desirable expenditures they bring in legislation which will require the raising of more money to pay out people who have put facilities and money into the docks. A load of employers will be paid out in cash so that they can invest their money in interests outside the ports and docks, and the Government will have to raise more money for the public to invest in our ports and docks. What an absurd position, especially when one considers that apparently the proposals are not based on any figures. In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill and in the speech of the Minister there is not even a vague estimate of what it will cost. Will it be £50 million or £100 million? Has the Minister any idea?
I gave no estimate merely because I did not want to try and cover the Committee stage in the Second Reading debate. However, I am happy to assist the hon. Gentleman. The £600 million was the best estimate that we could make. A great deal depends on the vesting day. I have spoken already about the £25 million. As for the port businesses, we do not assume that all of them will be taken over. There will be objections, and we shall have to wait and see how they turn out. We estimate about £50 million for the taking over of port businesses.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. There will be £50 million on top of the £25 million to which he has already referred, which means that £75 million is needed. In other words, it will cost £75 million in compensation to nationalise our ports and docks.
The Bill is badly drafted, and we shall endeavour to improve it in Committee. It is wrong in principle, and obviously we shall endeavour to change the principle. However, majority parties tend to have their way on matters of principle which they support, and, if the Committee accepts the principle, we shall try to move Amendments to make it work better.
This is a Measure which will contribute little to the improvement and modernisation of our ports which we all want to see. It is a piece of cheap doctrinaire legislation. For that reason we shall oppose it tonight.
The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) was kind enough to begin his speech by paying me a compliment which induced in my mind the reflection that, if I made many more friends like him, I would not want any enemies. Nevertheless, I was moved to assist him in making his case because I came to the conclusion that he needed it, since he was making such a botch of it himself.
If a visitor from another planet or from the other end of this planet had listened to the hon. Gentleman, he would have thought that he was talking about an industry which was pulsating with life and vigour, which was in the vanguard of progress, which was so modernised and advanced, was breaking so much new ground and setting such wonderful examples to other industries that it was a terrible shame that a Minister, with whatever good motives, should interfere with it. The description which he gave of this beautiful industry may be true of all the docks in Worcester. I do not know. It may be true of all the docks in Tavistock. I do not know. But it is not true of docks anywhere else.
We are discussing a vital industry which, in the last few years, by public intervention at enormous public expense has for the first time begun to be dragged kicking and screaming into the second half of the 20th century. That has been done in spite of the great resistance which those involved in it have put up and will continue to put up as long as the hon. Member for Worcester is their spokesman.
We must take great care of the industry. It has been estimated that, at the present rate of progress, by 1980 about twice as much trade will go through our ports as was the case a very few number of years ago. We cannot afford to have ports which are or may be in danger of becoming bottlenecks to our trade.
Moreover, the very high rate of escalation in the cost of ships and the fact that probably more than half the cost of operating a ship can be taken up by the time that it spends in port unloading and loading, together mean that we have to have arrangements in our ports which are efficient and, above all, efficient in the task of getting ships in and out as quickly as possible.
Notwithstanding all the improvements of the last few years, which have come about in the overwhelming majority of our ports industry as a result of public intervention and pressure and at the expense of the taxpayer, with private enterprise drawing profits from the money put in by the taxpayer, the industry is still gravely defective. Even if we wanted to take a private enterprise doctrinaire view of the situation, a number of major defects could not be cured without a degree of centralisation that is impossible and unthinkable so long as there is a multiplicity of private enterprise.
I refer particularly to five major defects. First, this is an industry which has never invested enough. If it is left to those who run it, it never will invest enough. The bright boys, about whom the hon. Member for Worcester talks, have an ignominious record of under-investment in their industry. No other transport industry—civil aviation, roads, railways or shipping—ever tried to run on the shoestring investment that the operators of our ports have.
Until recently the single port of New York invested more than all the ports in Great Britain put together. What kind of record is that? What kind of wonderful chaps are running our industry? They were all far too slow to catch up with the implications of the increase in ship size. Only five ports in this country have berths with draughts of 35 ft. or more. These wonderful chaps that the hon. Gentleman was talking about have provided in all the ports of this country put together, fewer 35 ft. draught berths than the single port of Antwerp.
The hon. Member for Worcester makes comparisons with Antwerp, Rotterdam and all the rest. If we had had enterprisers like them, he might have a case. But he is contrasting two different kinds of fish. They are both private enterprise. But, apart from the title, there is no resemblance between those ports and ours.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Port of New York Authority, of which I, too, have some experience. He will agree that that authority, which carries out an excellent job and has a first-class record of reinvestment, is not owned by the State of New York, nor by the Federal Government, but by New York City, and that it does an efficient job without being nationalised.
I do not know what that has 10 do with it. I mentioned New York to show that whoever owns it has more enterprise concerning investment in one single port than all these brilliant private enterprisers of ours put together. That would be true whether New York was owned by the State, by the city, by a private company, or by a group of private companies. I have no great objection to private enterprise when it is enterprising. My objection is to private enterprise which is unenterprising.
One of the main causes of the failure to invest was that too many people in our ports structure have been able to make money without capital investment. The labour-only contractor who provided no investment—not even a lavatory for his employees—was able to make a lot of money. All that he needed to make money was a shed, a table and chair, and a telephone. I have seen the headed notepaper of one labour-only contractor who made money in the ports. His telephone number was the number of a public call box in the docks. These fellows do not invest in fixed investment. That is why it is nonsensical to make comparisons with the much livelier people in the Continental ports. The net result is that so far in investment we have had no economies of scale or standardisation of equipment. For these and other reasons we have fallen far behind.
Another reason why we have had this shortfall in investment is that some of our biggest ports—the hon. Gentleman seemed to think this a good idea, but I think it is a foul idea—are run substantially by their customers. The Port of London Authority and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board are dominated by their customers. It is no use the hon. Gentleman quoting passages from some document which says that they do not want things to be changed. As Mandy Rice Davies would have said, "They would not, would they?"—because they are doing jolly well out of it. They have taken good care to ensure that harbour dues are fixed not in a way to benefit the body on whose Board they sit, but to benefit themselves as customers.
When we were doing the study, to which the hon. Gentleman was kind enough to refer in such encomious terms, I came across a very experienced docks manager, one of the best we have ever had in this country, who said: "You need only write one sentence in your report. The trouble with the large ports of this country is that, apart from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, they are the only business I know run by their customers, and run very badly indeed". That is an almost total quotation. I have left out only one adjective, which might be considered unparliamentary. They like it as it is because they get public investment and private profit. From their point of view it is the loveliest, richest drop of gravy imaginable.
I can—and I have sometimes been known to do it—make out a case for public enterprise. I think that I can make out a case for private enterprise. Sometimes, when I listen to hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think that I can do it better than they can. But the one thing for which a case cannot be made out is private enterprise on public doles. We should be defending the interests of the taxpayers. So should hon. Gentlemen opposite. We should not tolerate a situation where the taxpayer is required to carry the can for making up the gross deficiencies of investment in this industry and the entrepreneur takes all the profits.
The hon. Gentleman has said that it is indefensible to have an injection of private enterprise in the public docks. Is not this the situation in Rotterdam and Antwerp which has been so successful in injecting private enterprise into a public situation?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman's hearing is affected by the inclement weather. I did not say that it was intolerable to have a system of private enterprise in the docks. I said that it is intolerable to have a system of private enterprise on public doles—lolly; doling out money—whether it be in the docks or anywhere else. So much for the inadequacy of investment in this industry.
Secondly, the investment is not planned. The hon. Member for Worcester spoke with great enthusiasm of the Rochdale Report. I do not think that it is all that good. The point which comes out of it very clearly is that even the investment that we have had has not been put to the best use, precisely because it was done on the basis of individual decisions in individual places.
Let us look at this industry as a piece of organisation. It really is the most outrageous organisational hotch-potch that one can imagine. There are 30 ports—some bigger, some smaller, some very small—owned by the British Transport Docks Board which do no cargo handling at all. There is a considerable misuse of resources because of the wasteful rivalry between the South Wales ports of the B.T.D.B. and the ports on the southern side of the Bristol Channel, however they may be owned. In London there is a port authority which does the cargo handling, or some of it, in the enclosed docks, but none of it outside. Mersey only recently began handling cargo, but it is still only marginal. Bristol and Preston, which are municipally owned, do not do any cargo handling. Manchester, which is a hybrid of a private company plus municipal, has a monopoly of cargo handling. And then there is the awful organisational mess which is London.
I do not want to weary the House with long quotations, but there is one
passage which I propose to read from this research document. It says:
The Thames Navigational Service centred at Gravesend,"—
which my hon. Friend knows very well—
equipped with radar, V.H.F. radio and up-to-date information about tides, weather and hazards, provides a really efficient service, but ships need only obey its advice if they choose. The service is provided free of charge and all that is required to benefit from it"—
and we must remember that safety is heavily involved here—
is a V.H.F. receiving set, but the authority cannot insist on ships being fitted with it. The Port of London Authority cannot require receiving shipper to inform it of ship movements and half of the traffic coming up the estuary, that is the half bound for the river wharves, does not even have to notify the P.L.A. of its timetables.
To adapt a classic phrase, what a way to run a port!
What would happen if there was that kind of control at airports? An airport is a harbour, the same as the Port of London is. It is a harbour for a different kind of vessel. What would we think of an airport control which was run on that basis, where half the aircraft coming into the airport did not have to report their existence to the control tower?
What about the organisation around the wharves themselves? This document says:
In the enclosed docks, the Port of London Authority carries out all capital development schemes, building docks, quays, warehouses, and transit sheds and providing cranes, railways, wagons, almost all fork-lift trucks and even canteens and a police force. These are all provided from public funds and yet, because the authority is not the only employer in the area, it has no power to control the use of the facilities that it has either built or bought. We could think of no other industry in which this would be allowed to happen or in which there would be so many employers within the confines of the operating area. We consider that this situation inhibits the intelligent management of both finance and facilities.
In the light of what my hon. Friend and I saw, will he speculate on the fanciful proposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite that one private employer could somehow cope with these problems?
I dare say that if we set up and financed a private employer, provided he could command the loyalty of the workers, which is question, after question, after question, he could cope with it. He could do so if my hon. Friend and I were to vote an unlimited amount of money out of public funds for that purpose, but why should we, and why should it be advocated by anyone other than those who do not have the interests of the taxpayer at heart?
Organisationally, the greatest defect of all is that it is the only industry of which I know—and perhaps I might be allowed to say with all modesty that I know a bit about a number of industries—in which no attempt is made to match load and capacity. The whole business of organisation in this respect is to create the capacity to meet the load, to adjust the load to fit the capacity. This does not happen in this industry. Nobody works out whether we can make the best use of the resources if the cargoes go to one port rather than to another. No one works out how to make the best use of our ports, as is done with our airports. And this applies not only between ports, but within the ports. Can anyone think of such an idiotic situation being applied to any factory?
The Port of London Authority knows what ships are coming in, and when. It must know, because it has to provide a berth. But it does not know what is in the ship, and it therefore does not know what work will be involved in getting that load off the ship. It therefore does not know how much labour will be needed to unload the ship, or how long the ship will need to be berthed. The information about what is in the ship is in a set of papers in the dusty office of some small private company in a back room on the third floor of a building in Leadenhall Street, a company which has no responsibility for providing the berth or the capital equipment needed to load or unload the ship, or anything at all. It is like running a factory in which there are two managers. One chap in one place decides what machinery there shall be without knowing what orders have been taken, and another bloke in another place knows what orders have been taken, but he has no responsibility for providing the machines. I cannot conceive of any other industry in which anyone would think of doing that.
Two industrial results flow immediately from that. First, there is not the optimum use of berthage. That cannot be achieved, except by accident. Second, because there (are all these various authorities, the amount of paper work is fantastic. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are sometimes fond of suggesting that public ownership creates paper work and bureaucracy. I do not know of any form of commercial or industrial enterprise, publicly or privately owned, in this country, or in any other in which I have worked—and I have worked in a few—in which the ratio of paper work to end result is as high as it is in British ports. This is inevitably so because of the multiplicity of authorities involved. The thing goes round and round in circles.
I say to the hon. Member for Worcester that that is the organisational reason in favour of a single cargo handling operator, the organisational reason in favour of the concept that the chap who has to provide the berth space shall unload the cargo and reload it. The reason is genuinely organisational. Except in the hon. Gentleman's imagination, or in his exposition, there is nothing doctrinaire about it.
The last principal difficulty—though not the only one, because I could go on for a long time with this—is that it is grossly inadequate in research, in technical development, and in the training of personnel, including managements.
That is why, on all these grounds, I welcome the Bill. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for introducing it, and I am grateful for his exposition of it today. I am grateful to him, also, because I have a feeling that the Bill he has introduced today is a little better than the Bill he found in his Department when he took it over. I might be wrong about that—I have no inside information about it—but I fancy it is so. If I am right, I am grateful to him on that account. That is not to say that I do not think the Bill is not susceptible to improvement. I think it is susceptible to quite a number of improvements. I shall do my best to join with others to improve it during its passage through the House, not in any contumacious way—I think the hon. Member for Worcester was rather rough about it—but in a helpful way. Let us join together to make it the best Bill we can.
There are five areas in which I shall look for improvement. The first is in regard to the structure of the Authority, the port boards, and relations between them and the Minister. Here we are following some concepts which are beginning to become a little out-dated. The Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in 1967–68 on relations between Ministers and public corporations could be drawn on to bring up to date some of the factors in these matters.
Secondly, there are provisions about industrial relations. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that we do not create industrial relations in an industry by the terms written into a Bill. That is absolutely right. All we can seek to do in a Bill is to set the background and the framework. We have to leave the chaps on both sides to work this out in the best way they can.
My right hon. Friend was also right in saying that, so far as cold, hard, inevitably inadequate words of legislation can go, he has gone further in this Bill than in any previous nationalisation enactment. I am grateful to him for that, but I still think this is an industry where there is a chance of a real break-through towards industrial democracy. Someone spoke about having trade union officials on these boards, but I do not want full-time trade union officials on them. I want the chaps in the docks. I am not keen for them to be on the National Ports Authority, but they should be on the port boards. They should be elected and responsible to their electors. Even allowing for what my right hon. Friend said about not trying to dot every i and cross every t, when we come to that Clause in the later part of the Bill we should see if we can improve it.
It is possible under the Bill, although it is not necessary, that every single port may have its own board. I think that would be spreading the span of control by the National Ports Authority too wide. It could have too many individual boards responsible to it. I note that there is provision by which a board can take responsibility for more than one port. That is right, and that provision should be used widely so that all the ports in an estuary, and even in the estuary mouth areas, should come under the control of a single board. The timing laid down in the Bill for vesting and taking over the assets is a little too spread out, a little too unnecessarily spread out. We should see whether we cannot concertina and shorten it a little.
Finally, we should look at the area covered by the Bill and the question of whether some ports which are excluded ought to be included. Above all we should look at the definition of a port for the purposes of the Bill. The technical developments taking place are very great. Among the effects is that of spreading a port beyond the confines of a port as we have always understood it. Nowadays a port is much more than fixed berths on the bank of a river or the edge of the sea. Lighters are part of a port. If we are to go ahead with the LASH system, the deep water at the estuary is part of the port. That means moving the port outwards into the sea, but the port is also moving inwards to the land, because ports need all kinds of land-based installations, such as container bases. These are as much part of a port as the railway line or the crane on the edge of a river.
I give notice to my right hon. Friend that some of us will try to make improvements to the Bill, but the House would be very right to give it a warm welcome and to open up the possibility under central planning, proper investment control and high standards of research, development and employee training for the first time in this industry, of applying to it the most modern techniques. If that is doctrinaire, I am glad to be called doctrinaire.
The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) has spoken about the lack of investment. Has not the lack of investment been due to bad labour relations in this industry for such a long time and the lack of confidence in the future? Does he believe that nationalisation and centralisation of control will improve labour relations in the ports industry?
The answer is, yes, I do believe this will help labour relations. What is important is not what the hon. Member or I believe, but what the dockers believe. They believe this and that is what matters.
I hope to deal with this point further in my speech. I oppose this Bill because I am certain that the nationalisation that it will bring will destroy competition, weaken individual initiative, and cost the country dearly. Why do we have to nationalise the ports when those which are already publicly-owned, such as the Port of London, have had such troubles and to a large extent have been failures in the past few years, while private enterprise ports such as Harwick and Felixstowe have been such a success?
I mention those two ports because, although one is just outside my constituency, both with the British Railways port of Parkeston form a port complex which has recently been claimed to be the third largest container complex in Europe. The expansion taking place in those ports is startling. I wrote to the Minister on 11th December about the application of Clause 1(4) of the Ports Bill to harbours on the Stour-Orwell estuary. From the reply which I received today, which I welcome, I gather that as these ports do not have one harbour authority the Government do not have to aggregate all the tonnages handled.
He rightly says that, even if they did, the tonnage for 1967 and 1968 would still he under 5 million tons. This does not hold good for 1969. If this magical figure of 5 million tons is reached, will these ports be ripe for nationalisation? Does the Minister realise the uncertainty he is creating? Will he make a clearer statement than the short reply he has so far given me about the future of these ports?
Employers are already reading between the lines and looking carefully at the small print in the Bill, for Clause 29 extends the powers of takeover to an almost unlimited extent. The Clause fails to define specifically to what ports it might relate. Does it include ports below the 5 million tons of traffic level, or is it a raised axe waiting to fall on any port as soon as it reaches the 5 million ton level? I ask the Minister to end this uncertainty. Does not he realise that it destroys confidence which must be the basis and foundation of future investment?
Apart from the unnecessary uncertainty that this nationalisation Measure will create, and indeed has created, the great danger that I see in these proposals is that it will lead to centralisation of both labour relations and finance.
In the complex of ports around the Stour, labour relations between management and men are excellent. The labour in one port is mainly National Union of Railwaymen, another is Transport and General Workers, and the third is largely independent.
Why are the Government threatening to interfere with something that is working well? In spite of the diversity of union and non-union representation, East Anglian dock labour has embraced new methods and equipment with enthusiasm which has put Ipswich, Felixstowe and the Harwich ports ahead of most of the country. I include in this the British Railway port of Parkeston, where I am glad to say that labour relations are excellent.
Does not the Minister realise what harm he may be doing by threatening to interfere, particularly on the labour relations side? What a contrast these labour relations are with what has been happening at Tilbury and other ports. What a pity that in the last few years the Government have not paid more attention to improving labour relations than wasting all this time in planning the nationalisation of the ports. I am certain that the lack of progress over decasualisation must to some degree be laid at the door of nationalisation. What a sad and tragic story the continuing history of labour troubles has been at Tilbury, and how discouraging it is to any new investment in the ports, from whatever source it comes.
is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is now talking utter rubbish? He knows nothing about the industry. It is clear that he knows nothing about industrial relations. I think that hon. Members, before they speak on a subject, should learn something of what they are talking about.
I do not wish to be personal, but the fact is that I have represented Harwich for 16 years. In Harwich there are the ports of Harwich and Parkeston. A very big expansion is taking place in those ports. I have had a very close personal relationship, not only with the N.U.R. personnel at the port of Parkeston, but also with the Transport and General Workers personnel in the Port of Harwich. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the remarks he has made. If he will not withdraw his remarks, I understand; and I do not wish to be personal any more. I hope that he, too, will refrain from being so.
Is it the Minister's intention to create a complete monopoly, for this is in reality what he will be doing in the new plan, for he is including only those ports which handle more than 5 million tons of goods a year, those that handle over 90 per cent. of overseas trade and over 75 per cent. of our coastal trade and employ over 95 per cent. of the registered dock workers? Where will any other competitive industries be? I am certain that the Minister is creating a complete monopoly by these nationalisation proposals.
Are all charges to be fixed by the National Ports Authority in London? At present, most ports are willing to negotiate outside their published tariffs. This is certainly true of East Anglian ports, particularly for bulk cargoes, regular shipping services, and runs of similar goods. Charges for ancillary services such as warehousing vary widely and are negotiable, so that a shipper can select the port through which it is most economical to ship his goods. If a port user objects to port charges, he has the right either not to use the port or to object to the Minister, who, in turn, has the power to revise charges, if he thinks fit.
I am sure that the worst thing about the nationalisation proposals is the destruction of competition. The overall level of port charges is bound to rise. The one thing that is certain is that the port users will lose, which alas will affect the cost of living and will affect the price of our exports and, indeed, the cost of our imports.
The ports around the Stour estuary have grown up to what they are today because of competition which has given individual incentive and at the same time kept costs competitive. Private capital has been available, not only from the United Kingdom, but from the continent as well, because management has been first-class, labour relations have been excellent, and restrictive practices have been non-existent, both against mechanisation and modernisation.
That is my answer to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), who accused me of knowing nothing about the ports. I only wish that Tilbury and some other ports could learn from the example being set in the East Coast ports.
In such circumstances capital is available because there is confidence in the future—confidence that profits will be made and that those participating—management, labour, and shareholders alike—will prosper. The encouraging thing in the East Coast ports, particularly those around the Stour complex, is to see how those who work on the docks and handle the cargoes are benefiting from the prosperity there.
What a pity the Government have to interfere with the ports as they are doing, when all that was needed was to help the National Ports Council to grow.
I have no doubt that it was right to leave the operational control of harbours, as distinct from the broad planning, to local management, as was done in the Harbours Act, 1964. The need for central planning was recognised and provided for by the National Ports Council.
Why do the Government want to create this upheaval? Why this radical, doctrinaire nationalised reorganisation, when all that is needed is for the Government to help the ports to get on with the job?
As for the Stour estuary ports, what is needed now is, not more Government interference, but more money to be spent on the roads. Our communications need to be modernised to enable us properly to compete with ports on the Continent, especially Rotterdam.
What a tragic story Government help for the Stour ports has been. The Minister knows that there has been a crying need for investment on the roads. This should be a first priority, coupled with the improvement of labour relations—not this wretched doctrinaire nationalisation Bill, which will destroy competition, weaken individual initiative, and cost the country dearly, for the sake of appeasing the Labour Left wing.
I do not want to deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). They were all completely demolished in the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo).
I think that we can accept that this important Bill is long overdue. At all levels of the ports industry it is accepted that the industry's present structure is inadequate to ensure that the best possible service is provided for the nation. The two most recent studies, the Devlin and Rochdale Reports, between them afford a comprehensive review of the industry. The excellent report of the Labour Party Study Group on Port Transport, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar was Chairman, quotes Sir Arthur Kirby, Chairman of the British Transport Docks Board, who said in his paper to the Institute of Transport in March, 1965:
To anyone making no more than a cursory study of our ports it must surely seem that had we set out to devise the most difficult way to work our ports we could not have succeeded better than the existing state of affairs in which labour has no regularity of employment, in which there is excessive fragmentation in cargo handling, unco-ordinated transport to and from the ports, a multitude of clearing and forwarding agencies and, within all this, the inertia of long established custom. No one can wholly be blamed, all concerned are able to pass the buck and no port authority has complete authority, or if it has it doesn't exercise it.
That was not said by a member of the Labour Party. Sir Arthur's statement speaks for itself.
The Bill provides for the setting up of a National Ports Authority, and places under its charge our major harbours. As Command Paper 3903 indicates, the authority will have an immense task to fulfil if it is to plan the future development and rationalisation of physical facilities whilst adapting the organisation of work in the ports to modern needs.
I think that all fair-minded people will accept that the first necessity is to enable the new authority to concentrate resources and management on the essentials. This complex industry faces major changes—the use of larger ships, the introduction of rapid throughput facilities for bulk cargoes, the development of unit load techniques, and notably containerisation of general cargo and the growth of through transport. The impetus of change must be directed to ensure, first, that new investment and the rationalisation of facilities produce the best services in the right places, and, second, that the work of loading and unloading ships within our harbours is organised in the most efficient way and makes efficient use of modern facilities.
If the objectives are to be achieved, management must be efficient, and there must be effective worker participation. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that in this Bill for the first time the words "worker participation" are used. I look forward with a great deal of joy of joining my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar in seeing in Committee that something really good comes from that phrase when we reach the Clause where it is used. Nobody is quite certain what is the best method for worker participation. The unions seem to have great doubts about it, and I do not think that the owners have much thought about it at all. So it is up to us here, representing the Labour movement, to give a very effective and correct lead.
At the same time as we talk about worker participation and efficiency, standards of employment and productivity must continue to improve. The Bill is a great step forward. It will adapt and equip our ports to deal with modern problems of transport as the age we live in requires. I look forward to the Committee stage and hope that we shall have a sense of co-operation and urgency there. I am sure that many points will be raised. I hone that we shall not see the mere taking-out technique that we had on the 1968 Transport Act, the later stages of which were ruined by the silly, inefficient, senseless opposition of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) and others like him who served on that Committee.
The hon. Gentleman referred to disruptive tactics at the end of the Committee stage of the Transport Act. Was he not conscious enough of what went on in that Committee to realise that because of a Government Guillotine we were not even able to discuss the last few Clauses of the Act?
I should be out of order if I dwelt on this matter too much. Surely it is sufficient for hon. Members to recognise that we spent five months in Committee, and that should be enough. It is certainly not enough for the hon. Member for Cathcart. His speeches contain so much nonsense that he would need 12 months effectively to try to get any grist out of what he says.
I deplore the Opposition's attitude in opposing this Bill. Mr. Tonge, chairman of the port employers, talks of labour relations being in disarray, of port managers bickering between themselves and being unable to get down to fundamentals. Surely if that is the position there is the most urgent need for change? The Bill can give us the changes which will cure the present position.
I would also like to defend the need for the dock labour scheme to be continued so as to prevent a possible return to the evils of casual employment. As long as there are private port employers in the docks we could return to casual employment and so undermine all the hard-won victories of the dockers.
It is strange to me to hear the Tories talking about the Bill as doctrinaire, and threatening to unscramble it if they win the next general election. I say "if", and it is a terribly big "if". What utter irresponsibility from a party that claims the right to govern this country!
One can contrast the attitude of the Opposition with that of the Chamber of Shipping, a most respectable body, mostly comprising good hard Tories, I should think, but recognising the desperate need to have a better ports system, and prepared to see the reorganisation work, and appalled by the prospect of the ports becoming a political shuttlecock, as is advocated by hon. Members opposite. The uncertainty which exists in the industry at the moment has not been brought to it by party politics, and we on this side are convinced that party politics should not work against the best interests of the nation.
The White Paper, on page 6, indicates that the National Ports Authority will be required to prepare, for the approval of the Minister, a scheme of organisation which could bring in a Scottish ports authority. I have been asked by some other Scottish hon. Members to make this point. The paragraph reads:
The scheme may be expected to provide for subsidiary authorities based in the main on the principal estuaries. In working out the scheme the Authority will have to have regard to the desirability of providing an integrated management structure, which could take the form of a Scottish ports authority, for the Scottish harbour undertakings involved in the scheme; and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales will be associated with the Minister in considering the scheme in so far as it affects Scotland and Wales…".
So far, I have been unable to see in the Bill any provision for consultation and association with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. Perhaps we can be told what the position of Scotland is to be. The reorganisation will be for the betterment of all concerned with the ports, and the sooner we get the Bill on to the Statute Book and clear up the mess which exists, the better.
I do not often agree with what the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) says, but today he made one valid point. He spotlighted the fundamental weakness in the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker)—that something has to be done about the ports.
Conditions in the past have been shocking. The first volume of Mr. Alan Bullock's great biography of Ernest Bevin describes the conditions which existed for the dockers at the beginning of the inter-war period, and one realises how extremely grim and grisly have been the conditions behind all the labour unrest existing in the docks today. The current situation of general labour relations is still appalling in certain ports, although some of the conditions have been improved considerably.
One thinks back two years to the situation in 1967, immediately before devaluation of the £. A large part of the great Port of London stood idle as the money of the country ran out. I often thought at the time that that was Mr. Jack Dash's devaluation. This sort of thing has to be put right, but it is easier said than done.
But I doubt whether the concept of centralisation and of a national ports authority in the proposed form is the right answer. It is excessive centralisation which leads to the creation of very considerable management problems in any kind of effective enterprise. All the ports we are talking about are vital operational links in the survival of the country. They are the critical points at which we can save a large sum of money in our imports and exports, and they have to be made efficient if the country is to have a viable economy in 20 or 30 years' time and a rising standard of living for upwards of 50 million people.
Therefore, something has to be done, but I doubt whether this Bill is the way to do it. I shall not develop that theme much further, because a large number of hon. Members wish to speak, but I raise this big question mark and say that I am not satisfied with the method proposed but I accept the fact that answers must come.
There has been a lot of talk in the debate about the ports being political shuttlecocks, and so on, but that is not the point. The point is trade—the simple flow of trade of a great trading nation. That must be the central objective. Political dogma does not matter a hoot and what is wrong with the Bill is that it is bedevilled by dogma, as the hon. Member for Poplar made clear. This, in a way, is his benefit night. I am sorry that ii is not Britain's benefit night, which is the point.
I come now to the special position of Milford Haven, which I know very well —more than I know about the general position of the ports. The Minister referred to the situation there. This is already a publicly-owned authority. It was set up under the 1958 Act. Incidentally, I cannot recall any other Measure which has wiped out another Act without even mentioning it. This is a drafting point but that is the way things are done these days.
The authority at Milford Haven is already a public authority answerable to the Minister, so we are not here arguing about ownership. The right hon. Gentleman knows, although I do not think that many hon. Members opposite know, what actually goes on there. The trouble is that, although we have had very peripatetic public relations officers of the Welsh Office coming regularly—and they are nice people but they have no authority—no Minister of the Crown involved in trade, industry or transport has come to see the great port of Milford Haven, which is now our third port in terms of net registered tonnage handled. It comes after London and Southampton, ahead of Liverpool, and far ahead of places like Bristol, Clydeside and even Merseyside. None of these Ministers has been there, and they do not know what goes on there. The last Ministers we had visiting Milford Haven, I regret to say, came in the days of the Conservative Government. No Ministers have been there since, and they have not the foggiest idea of the remarkable developments going on at Milford Haven.
In 1958 Milford Haven was still a backwater, despite its excellent potential facilities. The area was a valuable marshalling point for convoys during the war. It was the finest harbour on that coast. Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton and everyone else came and blessed it, but that was as far as we got.
But in 1958 the oil companies arrived and the situation was transformed. There are now three large oil refineries and British Petroleum's giant terminal. Milford Haven takes ships regularly of 200,000 tons. In terms of cargo handled, it is the second largest port of the United Kingdom. Last year it handled over 40 million tons of cargo. It comes immediately after London. About £200 million in investment has gone into it, and I draw this to the attention of the hon. Member for Poplar, who talked about lack of investment.
Milford Haven is, therefore, a highly efficient operation. So why change the set-up? That is the question. The port has worked brilliantly in the last few years. The Government's arguments appear to be that it is necessary to carry out these proprosals for some sort of administrative purposes. The hon. Member for Worcester put his finger on the point by saying that the real reason was that the Government would have been landed with a Hybrid Bill if they had not included Milford Haven. This is what the Minister of State, Welsh Office herself said when she visited and spoke to local authorities in Pembrokeshire earlier this year. This is not the answer. We should not put into pawn or prejudice a great investment which is concerned with one of the major fuel supplies to make industry work. Every local authority in the locality has objected.
Yes, I included oil because this is a single-purpose port. I am describing the scale of the operation involved and, therefore, the money at risk, so to speak. This is another reason for excluding Milford Haven, for it does not have the labour relations problems or the background of labour mismanagement which other ports have. We have a completely new slate, and this should be reason enough for excluding this port.
Although the Minister of State said that a Hybrid Bill would have resulted if Milford Haven had been excluded, I am advised by the oil companies that Milford's competitive position in relation to Rotterdam is based on a difference of about one halfpenny or half a cent., and no more. This means that if one makes an alteration the terms will go against us.
This fact is brought home when one realises how Rotterdam has progressed. Esso began building a refinery at Milford in 1958 and it was completed in 1960. Although not as big as the refinery adjacent to your constituency, Mr. Speaker, it was built on the same design and was, therefore, comparable with the refinery built in Rotterdam. The Milford refinery is still producing 120,000 barrels a day. The Rotterdam refinery is now producing 330,000 barrels a day, though the Common Market and the wider hinterland is partly responsible for this.
There are two other important factors which must be borne in mind. The first is the difficulty of getting things done in this country. If one want to build a refinery in Rotterdam one need obtain only one permission and that is from the harbour authority. In the recent building of an oil refinery in my constituency, Texaco had to obtain 36 different per- missions. This is not the way to run a country, but it is the result of our present land-based arrangements.
Secondly, Rotterdam flies "welcome" from the masthead to all concerned. In this country the possibility of dues going up prejudices the inflow of investment. There must, therefore, have been another reason why Milford Haven could not have been excluded. The suggestion that a hybrid Bill would have resulted is not a good enough answer.
Another problem confronts us. We are contemplating building a pipeline from Milford to transfer refined oil products to various parts of the country and so take traffic off the roads and make the transfer of these products more economic. It is known as the "Three Ms Pipeline" because it involves Milford, the Midlands and Merseyside. A decision on this matter must be taken in the next two or three months and the oil companies must be convinced that there is no chance —this must be made clear beyond peradventure—of the terms being changed, compared with what has been the position up to now, so that they operate against them in Milford.
Our only advantage in Milford is deep water. We have all sorts of disadvantages, such as our remoteness from markets. It is, therefore, essential that the assurances which the Minister gave—I of course accept the right hon. Gentleman's personal assurances—are tied in such a way that future Ministers, whatever their political complexion, cannot change them. The best way to do that would be to have a separate authority for Milford compared with the other South Wales ports. That is the way out if the Government intend to persist with their present policy.
I have been speaking of a national asset which is a vital operational link for bringing in a basic fuel to serve the constituencies of all hon. Members and providing a rising standard of living for the British people. It is, therefore, essential that Milford should be excluded. This must be done in the national interest —I have not advocated this on a constituency basis—and our thinking must be directed to the national requirement and what is good for Britain. I am not making any other plea.
I am not satisfied with the Minister's proposals and I shall, therefore, vote against the Second Reading tonight. I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy me by Third Reading that he is able to make some form of built-in security so that Milford Haven cannot be used for the cross-subsidisation of less efficient ports.
Representing Liverpool, I would rather look to the future than the past. I regret that too many hon. Members tend to dwell on the past when this matter is debated. I am particularly concerned to ensure that the large capital investment which is now taking place in Liverpool will result in this port becoming the premier container port.
Despite what is often said about the dockers, those primarily responsible for handling goods have never resisted mechanisation. There has been cooperation right down the line. One need only study labour affairs and the tonnage handled to realise the real position. Until only recently capital investment was poor. The capital investment programme for the future, however, is colossal. We must be careful how we utilise that capital once we have the installations. Unless we have the right industrial atmosphere, we will waste much of this money, and the nation will suffer. Our real task is to get the goods flowing in and out by the most efficient methods. I am sure that those involved in the handling of goods will co-operate. A large section of the public does not appreciate the real problems involved.
It might help if I quoted from a newspaper report some remarks made by the former Director General of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board on his retirement. The report reads:
'More trust and goodwill among all men connected with the Port of Liverpool is the only way to a lasting peace in the waterfront', said Sir Clifford Dove on his retirement as Director General of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. 'We have the facilities and the potential to make the Mersey Britain's No. 1 port', he said. 'All we need now is a better understanding between men, union and employers—and a firmer faith in each ether'".
The Minister quoted some remarks made by Mr. G. E. Tonge, Chairman of the National Association of Port Employers. A newspaper report stated:
The main theme was that Britain's docks, and their labour relations in particular, were in such disarray that a strong central authority was needed to restore order.
Central control of wage negotiations—which could not be expected until the second stage of nationalisation when stevedoring companies are bought out—would allow port managers to 'get back to fundamentals', instead of bickering between themselves and nervously watching each other before making any settlements with the unions".
That last passage is particularly relevant, because that is precisely the situation which exists on Merseyside.
That state of affairs has to be eliminated, and it will not be until the Bill, with some changes, becomes law. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) that we are not spelling out participation sufficiently, and if we are to have utilisation of these great assets we have to have participation right down the line.
For these reasons, I was rather shocked when the new Director General of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board suggested that there was no advantage for Liverpool in nationalisation. Perhaps it is because he has been with us only a short time and does not understand the situation among our dockers. He went on at some length about disruption and so on. He has obviously not read the Bill. If he does, he will see that the Minister has made provision in such a way that there should be no disruption in its implementation. I am particularly interested in Clauses 2 and 3, which show the need for central planning and a national policy, and how they can be reconciled with local initiative and competition between the ports.
Several times this evening reference has been made to the circular of the Chamber of Shipping. I do not doubt that hon. Members opposite in particular will refer to it and that is why I mentioned Clauses 2 and 3. Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I am always fair, and I want to refer to paragraph 15 of the circular, which says:
While shipowners recognise that some further reduction in the number of port employers might be justified the Chamber is entirely opposed to the elimination of the independent element in the provision of stevedoring and other port services. The creation of a monopoly situation would mean a grave risk of loss of efficiency and a consequential adverse effect on stevedoring costs generally. These are vital issues.
I do not disagree, but I wonder how the shipowners reconcile that with the statement made in Liverpool on 3rd December by the Clyde Shipping Company, which operates between Liverpool and Waterford:
In the last year or two we have experienced very bad turn-round times in Liverpool, coupled with an extraordinary increase in stevedoring charges.
Frankly, I do not think that we can make a worse mess of it than the existing system in Liverpool and other places at the moment.
I have already quoted the chairman of the port employers saying that a strong central authority would restore order and allow port managers to get back to fundamentals instead of bickering between themselves. I hope that the House will endorse the Bill and, in particular, this principle, because during the past few years there has been too much bickering among port managers, and if it continues the country will suffer.
After the publication of the Report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, perhaps I should be most punctilious about declaring my connection with a shipping company, one of the great shipping companies of the country, which in this connection has spent many millions of pounds on the revenues of our ports and vast sums, directly and indirectly, on port development. I think I can say that my interest stops there.
I had not intended to intervene in the debate, but I was very much provoked into doing so by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) who, I am sad to see, is not now in this place. He and I would certainly agree about some of the objectives for our port system, but we disagree profoundly and widely about the methods to be used for achieving some of those objectives. I believe that there is less disagreement between us than the hon. Gentleman may suppose about the way in which responsibility for the existing situation must be more widely shared than the political loyalties of both sides of the House would sometimes allow us to conclude. Nevertheless, in attempting to assess responsibility we must be a little more honest and direct than the hon. Member for Poplar was in surveying this subject.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, when dealing with an entirely different matter, referred to the reaction of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition as being the silver plate on the lid of the coffin. I suggest that this Bill is the coffin on the back of the silver plate, but one has to look a long way through the Bill to find anything which remotely resembles silver.
As a substitute for the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) in that I was on his Committee, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to explain how the Mikardo Committee might have been more direct and honest? He may disagree with its conclusions, but I would have thought that we were fairly direct.
I propose to deal in detail with some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Poplar as I come to them, and I hope that this will make my case.
Before doing so I should like to start with one fundamental point, because this question of central control is central to the Government's case for what they are proposing to do. Where did the revolution, which hon. Members on both sides of the House want us most rapidly to adopt and apply in this country, start? Did it start in Russia, where there was the maximum central control of ports known in the modern world? No, it did not. Did the revolution of using forklift trucks and pallets or containers start in this type of highly centralised organisation? No, it did not.
The smaller revolution, the unit-load revolution, started within the private enterprise sector in Great Britain and the United States. The more major revolution, the container revolution, started within a number of essentially small, and in the majority of cases municipally-owned, ports—New York, Puerto Rico, San Francisco and Hawaii, and in the United Kingdom, to our gratification, Bellport, Harwich and Felixstowe. Those are the places where it not only started but got under way most rapidly.
I cannot see how it can be said that there has been no central control of development in the past under the National Ports Council system, because as I understand the way in which investment, where it has been generalised and centralised, has been controlled, the National Ports Council has acted as an advisory body. But it has been the Treasury, and the Treasury alone, which has made the central decisions, and made them centrally, in each and every case where there has been national consideration of a proposed national investment.
This is the question which I should like to put to the Minister. We know what the relationship between the National Ports Council and the Treasury has been. What difference is there to be in the relationship between the National Ports Authority and the Treasury and that which has existed? This I regard as the most fundamental point, and I hope that the Minister will deal with it tonight.
I turn briefly to several of the points made by the hon. Member for Poplar. He started by criticising British ports for not supplying a sufficient number of berths with a deep draught. In this I wholly agree with him. I have made this point repeatedly myself at Question Time and on other occasions, with particular reference to the grain terminal at Tilbury. This was a port, run by the Port of London Authority in conjunction with other authorities, which refused to act sufficiently and at a sufficient rate and with a sufficient intensity knowing full well—and it did know—that the Port of Rotterdam was planning to bring in 80,000 tonners while a grain terminal of Tilbury was being planned on the basis of bringing in 45,000 tonners. But this was a failure of the whole system to respond and was not necessarily a failure of either the private sector or the public sector.
We must look at the whole system and ask ourselves why there was this inhibition, this failure to react. When we ask that question, we see that this sector of our economy suffered from much the same malaise which has been found in other sectors of the economy, and I would not presume to distinguish between them.
I have not been aware of any overwhelming predisposition on the part of the Port of London Authority in favour of shipowners. Shipowners have their influence on that authority, and it is arguable whether they have too much. From all the information I have, the Port of London has for a long time regarded itself very much as a public authority and acted in that way.
The second point of the hon. Member for Poplar is that the port managements in particular have been carried "kicking and screaming" into this part of the twentieth century. We hear many strange things said in this House, but of all the statements which have been made in recent weeks this must be the most incredible. Who has been kicking and screaming—the management at Tilbury? The managements in other major ports in the country? Certainly they bear their share of responsibility, but now that some of them have taken the plunge, now that massive investment has been made, where has the kicking and screaming come from? It is mainly from the dockers. There is no mistaking this point. It cannot be stated otherwise.
The hon. Gentleman says that this is the fault of the dockers. I have heard him on about the Tilbury dockers before. It is precisely the delays and mismanagement which have caused distrust on the part of the dockers at Tilbury. Had their overall wage claim been settled—and it should have been long ago—there would have been no disturbance whatever.
I accept what the hon. Member says, that the dockers have had a serious grievance over a very long period of time. But surely it is ridiculous to generalise a rate of wages which can only be the result of a particular type of technical function—the use of containers —and say that unless this wage is extended over the whole of Port of London, in which these techniques are not used and do not create productivity, this function will not be allowed? Furthermore, if this were to be extended over the whole of the country the net result would be simply to bankrupt many of the more inefficient ports. This is the nub of the situation.
The real answer to the hon. Member's question is that when the dockers see a sufficient and significant number of ports employers now making the necessary moves, now introducing modern techlonogy, that surely is the time for them to say, "Let us forget the past and move forward. If there are new grounds for suspicion and moving back, then this is a new situation in which we would have to take the blame." If we make all our decisions in Britain today, in the docks or anywhere else, by looking backward to what happened in the twenties, the thirties, before the First World War, we shall fall behind, a long way behind.
The hon. Gentleman is making a very vigorous speech and I am interested in it. Would it be right to say that he is trying to bully these dockers? If he is, I would not have thought it a terribly good idea. Is it not time for a more subtle and sophisticated attempt to achieve some sort of relationship that would lead to the result which he undoubtedly desires, as do most other people?
That is a fair point. My point is not that we or the employers or anyone else should bully dockers. It is that in their own interests, using their own common sense, they should bully themselves into changing their minds. They are the only ones who can do it; no one else can. We cannot move the troops into the docks; it would be folly to do so. But Britain must change, the docks must change, and if we do not do so within a matter of weeks or months we shall pay an intolerably high price.
The next thing I want to cover is this interesting, although technical, question that our docks have not moved forward because there has been no attempt to match load with capacity. This was an interesting point made by the hon. Member for Poplar, who compared the situation in our seaports with that in our airports. This is a comparison which merely discloses that the whole technique of planning in airports has been more efficient. It has not been totally successful. Those of us who move regularly through London Airport and Kennedy Airport will realise that there are of necessity peak load problems there as there are in the docks. This is a fundamental and inescapable conclusion, simply because docks, like many other modes of transport, have to be designed to deal with a peak-load capacity. This is something which is very difficult to judge.
It is not fair to make this sweeping generalization, because if we ask ourselves, looking at the port system of Western Europe, what has happened over the last 20 years, we find that the ports have expanded, all of them, private and public enterprise, sufficiently to handle what is virtually a trippling of world trade since the end of the Second World War. This is no mean achievement, and we should not ignore it.
The next not unimportant point raised by the hon. Member for Poplar was the question of paper work. I agree with him. Paper work is the most significant form of grit in the modern commercial machine. The International Chamber of Commerce at its recent meeting in Turkey set up several committees to deal with this, and these have produced a number of interesting reports. A very considerable effort is being made by large numbers of organisations, private, governmental and international, to deal with this question, which it is a concentration of all the fiery heat of bureaucracies of all kinds in one great overwhelming burden on commerce. We know that the matters are extremely difficult to put right and I would remind the hon. Member for Poplar that two of the most serious and time-comsuming forms of paper work which international commerce has to bear are those imposed by Customs and Government. Therefore the obligation, which he has rightly described as falling everywhere, falls equally on the public sector.
What is not in the coffin of the Bill? The life of our ports system is certainly not in it. We know, because it is the comment made most generally by most of the critics—and friendly critics they are, particularly from Holland and Rotterdam—of our port system is that, seeing what has happened in Rotterdam and Antwerp, seeing the sequence of events there—industrial development on the most massive scale which has followed bold decisions to invest in those ports—we have not followed the example set. Our critics now—and this is a question which should be put to the Minister —seriously wonder whether we can ever catch up. I would like to see the Government examining much more closely why we have failed to develop our Midas concept much more vigorously in the five years that they have been in power. Here lies the key to modern port development. Why have we done so little about it?
We must relate our port development to the new technologies. I would like to see the Government bringing Bills before this House if necessary—and it may not be necessary—to show that they are aware of the relationship between port development and container requirements, between port development and computer communications which will help to eliminate this paper problem, and between port development and what is essentially the economic requirements of a total transport system around it. These are the essential matters at issue.
Equally I would like to see the Government considering the sea-air balance. Although they think they may be creating a monopoly of freight and movement, this monopoly is almost at the end of its reign. The massive new air freighters are carrying about 12–13 per cent. of our national trade. Foreseeably by the end of this century, if this trend continues, our ports will probably carry bulk cargoes, and something less than 50 per cent. of our total trade. The Government ought not to think that by nationalising the port system they are bringing within their control more great new areas of trade and commerce. This would be a mistake.
I would like to see the Government pay more attention to the fact that our port system, vital and important though it is, is but one end of a chain, and in every single case at the other end of a British port is another overseas port. Our port developments must match port developments elsewhere in the world, because the British mercantile marine, as the Minister knows, virtually covers the globe. I should like the Government to bring to the House much more serious analyses of the way in which the efficiency of our ports and the use of modern technology and modern means of moving cargo are restricted by what is not being done elsewhere as much as by what is not being done here.
I am conscious of your request, Mr. Speaker, for brief contributions. Apart from that, I understand that many of my colleagues wish to speak. I propose to make three references, the first at rather greater length than the other two. My speech, in the beginning, will be parochial.
If you, Mr. Speaker, had been in occupancy of the Chair during the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), you would have heard the name of the City of Bristol mentioned more times in two minutes than it has probably been mentioned in the last 20 years. There was a very good reason for that. The term "political shuttlecock" has been used on a number of occasions in this debate. The explanation for the tremendous interest of the Conservative Party, not only in the House, but in the City of Bristol, in the docks issue in that city is that it is making it a political shuttlecock. No one has contributed more to that than the hon. Member for Worcester. I absolve my colleagues who represent Bristol from that. Throughout we have tried to be constructive in approaching the problem of the docks in our city, whether in relation to the city docks or to the port authority.
My first reference is, therefore, made on behalf of the city, one of whose divisions I have had the honour to represent for a very long time. To put the position in perspective, I wish to quote a very short paragraph from the resolution which was passed, I believe, unanimously by our local authority as far back as February this year on what was then an anticipated Ports Bill. The authority said that it
deplores the proposals for nationalising its Dock Undertaking as published in the White Paper entitled 'The Reorganisation of the Ports' and asks the Minister of Transport to exclude the Port of Bristol Authority from the list of harbour undertakings to be taken over, described in paragraph 10 of the White Paper.
I frequently take part in debates in the House, particularly when they affect the City of Bristol. Local authorities normally consider that their public representatives in the House should advance the views expressed in the city council chamber on what is in the best interests
of the city. I have always endeavoured to do that, especially in relation to the dock undertaking. It was my privilege to initiate a debate on the Government's agreement to the Portbury scheme. At that time, I was wholeheartedly in favour of the scheme. I knew dock officials very well, and I was assured that the scheme was vital to the well-being not only of the undertaking, but of the city and the whole of the West Country. I advanced the case in the honest belief that the scheme was necessary for the City of Bristol.
Without doubt, the Bristol city docks have brought trade, prosperity and wealth to our city. While the citizens as a whole must have benefited as a result of the activities of our port, there may be some doubt about who has profited most, the citizens in general or the private interests, whose business activities have been sustained and expanded by modern port facilities—and when I say "modern" I mean until recent years when containerisation has developed and other ports have been advantageously placed to deal with containerisation traffic.
It must be admitted that concentration on and modernisation of the three or four big and highly prosperous ports has seriously threatened other ports which, because of their geographical location, helped to ensure the continuing life of our county at its time of greatest need in two world wars. Such ports, including Bristol and the South Wales ports located in the Severn Estuary, were the country's greatest strategic assets, and they should not now be lightly discarded or even run down in favour of London, Liverpool and Southampton.
That brings me to my second request, and that is for the rapid expansion of the provision of deep water berths. I said that I strongly supported the Portbury scheme seven years ago when we were asked to present the case to the House. It was ultimately refused. A grave injustice was done to the city at that time, remembering the period, seven years ago. Without much, if any, doubt, the Minister of Transport was ready to agree that Bristol should build those deep water berths at its own expense. The principal reason given to me for hesitation was the materials and labour factor. In other words, there was recognition, and almost tacit agreement, that the scheme should be conceded, and then suddenly it was withdrawn.
I do not want to be offensive about the Ministry of Transport, but certain Ministries control their Minister unless he has the strength to control them. I hope that I do no injustice to the Ministry of Transport when I say that in the past I have considered it to be one of those Ministries, because, after the disappearance of the Minister who was favourable to the Portbury scheme, we had the advent of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity and there was an appreciable change, not only in the direction of perhaps rejecting the scheme, but in making a more meticulous inquiry into the financial basis of the investment and the return which would be obtained. Eventually, the proposal was refused, and the port of Bristol was invited to submit a modified scheme. It was hinted, and perhaps even more than hinted, that this would receive favourable consideration. Such a scheme was submitted.
What I am about to say may not please some of my friends in Bristol, but I believe that it was wise that we were not granted Portbury. When I think of what was envisaged, the amount of money that would be expended and the length of time that would be taken, and when I see the enormous changes which have taken place in shipping arrangements, I have the feeling that we might have been spared a white elephant.
But I have never been able to understand why the Ministry of Transport, on what I believe to be an entirely false formula, has rejected the West Dock. Bristol believes that by this rejection a severe and unjustified handicap has been placed upon our port and upon our dock facilities. I do not know what the present financial position of the City of Bristol is, but it agreed to raise this money itself, and no money was to be provided by the Exchequer. I cannot therefore understand why this has been denied.
It is as well that we do not change the Minister of Defence as often as we change the Minister of Transport. Every time there is a new Minister it is necessary to repeat one's case to him and he has to digest it for a couple of years before he comes to a view about it. I say to the new Minister that this has been a sad error of judgment which places Bristol at a grave disadvantage to its competitors and I believe the decision to be based on a doubtful formula on the return on capital investment.
This brings me to nationalisation, which is what the Bill is about—
I would rather not. I give way as freely as anyone, but there have been many interventions. I should have been speaking earlier had there not been so many speeches from the back benches on both sides of the House, and I have promised to be brief.
On the principle of nationalisation, I see little difference between municipal ownership and public ownership by the nation. The only difference is a matter of local pride, pride of possession, and Bristol is an insular city. People feel a tremendous pride in the dock which has been in their possession for a century, if not longer. The Port of Bristol is efficiently run, and I imagine that under a national administration the set-up would remain almost, if not entirely, undisturbed.
I have, therefore, with a strong sense of civic pride, examined the proposals in the Bill dispassionately and come to the conclusion, perhaps with reluctance, that they might place Bristol in a disadvantageous position were its port not incorporated. I think it would be unwise for Bristol not to be incorporated within the framework of the Bill and within the national scheme.
Proposals for estuarial authorities have loomed large in all the studies about the future port requirements of the country, and I have examined closely the proposals made by the Rochdale Committee. The Severn estuary is a natural and geographically suitable site for substantial advanced docking facilities. My fear is that unless the authorities with port installations on this great, strategic estuary come together and agree on a development programme, for the benefit of all, through the National Ports Authority, we may lose out—and I am addressing that remark to my South Wales colleagues. All may lose out, not merely Bristol, to what I call the juggernaut ports, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Alldritt) was boasting, and which he expected before long to become the premier container ports in the country. Because of their immediate strength they will outpace all the smaller ports, whether or not they are at present municipally owned. So I do not oppose the terms of the Bill, which I sincerely believe to be in the best interests of my city.
My last point is on a matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) will develop, if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. The Minister must be aware of the concern among dock labour about what is to happen to them. Hon. Members representing constituencies which have ports have had representations about this. I hope that reassurances will be given, not only to us but to those workers who have spent a long period of their lives in the service of the docks.
I propose to make a short intervention with particular reference to the problem of the South Wales ports. I follow the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) when he says that, in considering the difference between municipal ownership and public ownership, he has come to the conclusion that local pride is an important aspect. I entirely agree with him on this and hope that I may take him further with me in the argument that there is also the question of competition.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) referred to the problems of Milford Haven, those problems are totally different to those of most of the other large ports in our country. What I have to say highlights the problems of the Welsh ports and what they have done, and I wish to underline the risk to future employment in South Wales which the Government are running by putting forward the Bill in this form. Of a total 36 hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies, 30 are Labour Members of Parliament, and, therefore, in a decision to nationalise the ports which include Milford Haven and the other five ports in South Wales, they, including the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes), whom I see in his place, will bear a great responsibility for what happens in those areas in the future. The fact that Milford Haven is probably the finest deep water harbour in the world has already been referred to. Under an enlightened conservancy over the past eight or nine years, this haven has attracted an enormous number of oil companies—B.P., Esso, Texaco and Gulf, and Amoco is at the moment seeking powers. They have helped long-term employment in South Wales and greatly improved the economy of South-West Wales.
I ask that Milford Haven should be left out of the Bill altogether. In the end, I believe the Minister will find it easier to do this. Milford Haven is totally different from the type of port which has the problems that the Minister is trying to cure. Milford Haven takes 250,000 ton tankers—a size of tanker which is being increasingly used today. No other port, except the Clyde, can properly take such vessels. There is a great risk in nationalising a port of this type.
Let me compare the costs of taking a 210,000 ton tanker into Milford Haven with the cost of taking an equal size tanker into Rotterdam. The harbour dues at Milford would be £4,333 compared with more than £8,600 in Rotterdam. If it were not for the lighthouse dues imposed by Trinity House for the general lighthouse fund, the total comparable port costs would be £6,700 in Milford Haven and about £11,000 in Rotterdam. This is a competitive picture which all of us would wish to see continued. I therefore ask, why change this?
My other point about the conservancy concerns costs and overheads. At present the conservancy employs only 50 people, with an unpaid board on which there are representatives of the users, that is the oil companies. Under the Bill, it would be run by a port board acting under a port authority, advised by a port advisory committee and a national advisory committee. That will no doubt double the administrative cost and add greatly to the delay in decision-making.
Unless one knows Milford Haven one does not realise how far away it is. It is as far the other side of Cardiff as London is this side of Cardiff. When one is there one feels a long way away from London. The fact that decisions will be taken in London is one reason for knocking out the whole argument for the nationalisation of this port.
I turn to the other five ports in South Wales. They show a success story. We have ports which give substantial employment to over 3,500 men, and again they are being run by a centralised staff, including pilots and dredging personnel, of only 303. That represents under 9 cent. of the working force and is, therefore, administratively highly economical and sensible. Let us consider the profits which these ports have made in the last two years and which they look like making next year. In 1967 the profits were over £500,000. In 1968 they were getting towards that sum. For reasons which we all know, such as the putting up of dues in July and the fact that Swansea had to embrace the costs of the new ferry last year, the picture next year should be even better. That is a performance which does not need curing. It needs reinforcing.
Let me look at the profitability and the basis on which the figures are produced, which is important in any form of business be it a port or anything else. The return on discounted cash flow is very high. On new capital works each Welsh port manager is given a target of 15 per cent. at which to aim, and depreciation is on a replacement cost basis and not on a historic cost basis as is the case in some other ports. So the figures of profitability are even better than I have shown. They show why we in Wales are very proud of the success of the South Wales ports.
The right hon. Gentleman should also know that there is competition between these five ports. It is a stupid argument, and if the right hon. Gentleman does not understand the difference between what is happening now and what will happen under the Bill, he ought to. The right hon. Gentleman has been Minister of Transport and he knows perfectly well that if he went down to South Wales—as he has done—he would find that the competition is producing a highly satisfactory result.
If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newport, who must know the dock area in his constituency very well, will ask those in charge of the ports and running them, he will find that the fact that they are run as a group administratively is reflected in the adrninistration costs and figures to which I have already referred. But competition between the ports still exists and I do not think he would deny that. As I said, the Government will run a great risk in this, particularly Welsh Members, in regard to employment in South Wales and in South-West Wales.
A great deal has been done in the areas of the South Wales ports to reclaim industrial land and to prepare for the time when the economic position gets better again and When South Wales, as other areas, will be able to attract industrialists. The threats in this Bill to take over businesses within the dock areas constitute a threat to would-be industrialists coming to the very areas where we want them to come.
South Wales has two port problems. The first is in relation to Milford Haven and the second and equally important is the problem of the five Welsh ports. We want to see decisions taken wherever possible in Wales. We want on-the-spot decisions not decisions taken in London. The party opposite want it different.
Even the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) pointed out that, although in the Bill the Secretary of State for Wales has responsibility for transport in Wales, there is no reference at all in the Bill to discussions having to take place with the Secretary of State for Wales before anything happens in the Welsh ports. I ask the Minister to consider very carefully before the Committee stage putting this right, because it is something which will not be understood in Wales.
I accept what the Minister says, but would it not be reinforced by putting it in the Bill, because we in Wales regard the functions of devolution as important? We would be grateful if the Minister would look into this before the Committee stage.
The future of the South Wales ports and Milford Haven means a great deal to the economy of South and South-West Wales, and in taking this step, the nationalisation of the ports, which we regard as entirely retrograde, the Government and all hon. Members opposite representing Welsh constituencies are taking a significant risk with long term future employment in Wales.
In my view, the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) made an excellent case for the Bill. He does not seem to realise that the South Wales ports, the five ports to which he referred, are part of the British Transport Docks Board organisation, which, in addition, covers Southampton, Hull and other ports. They are run extremely efficiently, I agree, and I want to see the present efficiency of the B.T.D.B. translated to all British ports. The hon. Gentleman made a marvellous case for the Bill.
There is competition, of course. There is competition between Southampton and South Wales. Under the present B.D.T.D. arrangement, each individual docks manager has a great deal of scope for initiative and competition, and that is what the docks managers are engaged in. We are competing for container traffic in Southampton; we are competing with B.T.D.B. ports and other ports in the country. This will go on and be extended under the Bill.
I come now to what was said by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd). He was the first hon. Gentleman opposite to point out that what we are talking about here is competition between British ports as a whole and Continental ports. The real competition is between British ports and Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg and the rest. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) touched on the same point when he drew attention to the ½d. on petrol, the difference between Milford Haven and Rotterdam.
I understand that the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) does not take the same view; he does not think that the competition between British ports and Continental ports is an important issue. Perhaps he will tell us why. We shall be interested to know.
We need a strong National Ports Authority which can plan investment in the best possible way precisely in order to make the British port industry as a whole as efficient as it can possibly be. In this connection, I refer again to the speech of the hon. Member for Lang-stone. He emphasised how important it is to have the relationship between Treasury, Minister and National Ports Authority right. I want to see a National Ports Authority which can make individual investment decisions virtually as part of the managerial function, though, obviously, the overall amount and pattern of investment will have to be fixed by the Ministry and, therefore, by the Treasury. We need not apologise for what the Government have done in investment in the ports; we have increased it fantastically over any previous Government's record. But the individual decisions on whether something should be here or there—the Portbury type of decision—should in the main be a managerial decision made by the National Ports Authority rather than a decision open to too many political influences.
I remember the Portbury case well, and I pay a great tribute to my hon. Friends from Bristol for the hard fight which they put up. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) and I had different interests; we were afraid that our ports would suffer if the Port-bury scheme went through, so we did our bit of pressurising the other way. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), I remember, made all sorts of party political speeches in the South-West, telling the people how they would have Portbury under a Conservative Government. I think that even the Leader of the Opposition went down there, too. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are still doing it."] I know they are.
I want to take the business out of that sort of political argument. If we are to have a really efficient ports system that sort of decision—whether one should invest in Portbury, in Hull, Southampton, London or Liverpool—should largely be taken by the National Ports Authority as an executive function, though, obviously, the Minister will have some reserve powers.
The big difference is that the National Ports Council was purely advisory, not an executive body. The National Ports Authority to be set up under the Bill is much more of an executive body, and that is why I say that it is important to have the relationship between the Minister and the Authority sorted out at the beginning.
I am pleased that there is one big change in the Bill compared with an earlier White Paper; namely, that we no longer have the proposal for a regional structure. I never thought that regionalism for the ports meant anything; it always seemed to me that it merely put another intermediate and rather bureacratic structure in the middle.
The ports controlled by the British Transport Docks Board are the most efficiently run in the country today. I do not believe that the British port industry presents the rosy picture which the hon. Member for Worcester tried to paint; neither do I believe that the picture is a gloomy as my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) tried to paint it. I think that my hon. Friend tends to be over-influenced by the chaos in London and does not pay enough attention to ports elsewhere. I want to see the sort of management structure which already exists and operates very efficiently under the British Transport Docks Board translated through the Bill into the new structure. The expertise is there; it has been doing the job well.
Now, a word about the individual port boards. I hope that the Minister will not make these port boards too large. I am speaking here about the executive boards rather than the advisory bodies. In running a port, a great deal of power and authority must be given to the manager. He has the job to do. One of the features of the British Transport Docks Board structure which I like is that it is not all run from London. The port of Southampton is run from Southampton, not from London. My chief docks manager has a tremendous amount of individual power to make decisions, and that state of affairs will be continued under the Bill.
As I say, I hope that the port boards will not become too large. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar in wanting elected representatives of the labour force necessarily sitting on the board. I regard the board as very much a management body. I am sure that in its membership there must be people whose background is the dock industry, but I am not sure that one should include elected representatives of the men. Whatever is done, a considerable measure of control must still rest with the manager. That is of great importance.
I take up now the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) regarding the National Dock Labour Board. For a long time, the National Dock Labour Board has played an important part in dock management and control and the managing of the labour force. Its functions have changed considerably since the Acts of 1966 and 1967. There is a reference in the White Paper on which the Bill is based, to giving a place under the new set-up for the employees of the National Dock Labour Board. It is paragraph 35:
The Government expects that most if not all will be needed by the National Ports Authority and its subsidiary authorities".
These people have a great expertise built up over many years in dock work. It will be a great pity if we lose them. I can find no mention of the N.D.L.B. in the Bill. What will be its function? I understand that it will carry on roughly as it is for the next two years, but, at the same time, the National Ports Authority will build up its own structure to deal with personnel and welfare problems. I regard that as dangerous.
At the end of two or three years, when the N.D.L.B. folds up, the jobs which its employees have been doing and remain capable of doing will have been filled by someone else. I should like a guarantee of future employment for these employees written into the Bill. I believe that there are about 400 altogether at the moment, and there should be a direct reference to them in the Bill, as there is to other types of dock labour. It is important that we should not lose their expertise.
I welcome the Bill, not as an ideological exercise, but as leading to a more efficient port service in the future than exists at the moment, for this is what the country needs.
I am glad to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell). It was one of the few contributions to this debate which indicated that the hon. Gentleman had studied the Bill very carefully. I have felt that some of the speeches today, without wishing to particularise, have not given the impression that some hon. Members have looked at the Bill in quite the same depth as has the hon. Gentleman.
It is an important and significant Bill which will have far-reaching effects on the whole of the industry, an industry which we lump together under the heading of "docks and harbours". But its effects go far beyond that industry since the whole of Britain's export performance and programme will be touched directly or indirectly by its provisions.
It is a fact of which I need not remind you, Mr. Speaker, that only one Liberal voice is heard during the course of a debate of this kind. It is perfectly correct, and I make no complaint about it, but I am sure the House will appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) would have liked to intervene in the debate. Therefore, some of my remarks on the Manchester ship canal and the port of Manchester are points that he himself would wish to have made to the House. His interest in the canal and in the port extends over many years.
I make that comment now because one Liberal voice is heard and therefore, as spokesman of my party on transport, I speak on this issue today.
I am grateful for that intervention, Mr. Speaker. Far from complaining about the matter, on the contrary you, Sir, and your deputies are extremely fair to us and always give us more time than, or at least quite as much time as, we are entitled to receive. I am glad to place on record that fact.
I see that the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) has gone out of the Chamber again. He was here for a brief moment. I wish to make one or two comments on his speech, which I thought curious.
The hon. Member for Poplar made his speech, then departed, returned about seven minutes ago, and has now departed again. I want to refer to his speech, and I wish he were present to hear my points.
The hon. Member referred to the port of New York in connection with the investment record of the British port authorities. He was wrong to make such a comparison. I am not arguing that there is not a case for a larger proportion of the profits earned in British ports to be reinvested since I believe there is a case for this. However, the hon. Gentleman stated that the amount of reinvestment on the part of the New York port authority was equivalent to the total investment by British ports in any one year. I believe that the New York port authority handles more cargo in any given year than the entire complex of British ports put together. Therefore, his analogy was false and the record should be put right.
The hon. Member also drew another curious comparison in his speech when he said that the Bill as presented to the House was in a somewhat better form than it would have been had it been presented by the Minister's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh). I find it difficult to understand why he should have found it necessary to be so disparaging about the right hon. Member for Greenwich since in my experience, as spokesman for my party on transport, I always found him to be most helpful and willing to listen to any argument put to him.
As long ago as July 1967, which was the last occasion on which I had the opportunity to speak on ports and nationalisation, I said
It will not be news to the Government that the Liberal Party will oppose any measure of nationalisation which may be introduced in this Parliament or within the foreseeable future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 1776.]
I do not want to appear in that statement, by which I stand, to be doctrinaire. The Labour Party has today been accused of being wholly doctrinaire in its approach to problems, in the sense that it always looks to nationalisation as the solution. I do not want it to be thought that the Liberal Party is totally and irrevocably opposed to all forms of nationalisation.
In the past it has been right for us to support some legislation designed to nationalise certain industries which are better under public ownership than private ownership. But once again we are faced with a Bill containing nationalisation where public ownership is, in our view, quite unnecessary. No case has been advanced from the other side of the House today to support the opinion of the Minister of Transport that to obtain efficiency and reorganisation in the ports nationalisation is the key to that efficiency or is the right way to go about reorganisation.
This does not mean that parts of the Bill are not to be welcomed. For example, the worker participation clause, Clause 41, is to be welcomed in principle as a major step forward in worker-employer relations. That does not mean that the Clause does not require amendment. However, the basic principle should be welcomed.
The Minister did not make a case for nationalisation or public ownership of the ports named in the Bill. I have taken care to examine the situation in Manchester, which is one of the finest examples of a port developed under private and local authority ownership with Government assistance but without interference from national Government. It is one of the finest port developments which has taken place anywhere in the world. In saying that I do not wish to be disparaging towards Bristol, which has a special place in my affections since for the first 27 years of my life my home was within 12 miles of Bristol and I know it better than I know Manchester.
I believe that to spend £25 million, which was the figure mentioned by the Minister as the estimate of compensation, including severance costs in Bristol—and as a result of questioning by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) it came somewhat nearer to a figure of £75 million—is an example of gross waste of public money at a time when this country cannot afford to spend anything on projects which are not absolutely essential. Surely a very strong case would have to be made out before making an expenditure of £20 or £30 million, for example, in acquiring the port of Manchester.
As hon. Members know, Manchester is some 30 miles inland; yet the port is one of the largest in the country and is certainly one of the most efficient in the world. A map of the route of the ship canal shows that some great national and international companies have placed their wharves along it. They include such companies as Colgate-Palmolive, Spillers, Kraft Foods and Rank Hovis. When one realises how much these customers have contributed to the success of the port is is also clear that it must have been run efficiently since they would not otherwise have used it. Therefore, I see no case for taking the port of Manchester away from its present successful ownership and placing it under the control of the State.
I have with me three fascinating documents, all of which I hope have been studied carefully by the Minister of Transport. In a sense, they are historical. One is the excellent booklet, "The Port of Manchester". A brief examination of it shows the wide diversity of traffic being handled by the port. If one considers how much work has been done to modernise and improve it in recent years in order that it might handle tihs vast amount of traffic, the case for nationalisation becomes thinner with every page that one turns. It becomes virtually non-existent by the time one has finished reading the book.
The second document is the plan of the Manchester Ship Canal. That shows how much industry has been attracted to the area in consequence of the existence of the canal, the port, and their efficient management.
Finally, there is the splendid document entitled "The Port of Manchester". I have a special interest in this one, because its cover is made of a thick paper which has been treated with material produced by the English china clay industry. That industry has a port in my constituency. I refer, of course, to Fowey. I do not take the extreme view expressed by a constituent of mine who came to see me last Saturday. He said that he hoped that I would oppose the Bill because, as he put it, "Make no mistake about it, the Government, with their intention to nationalise and socialise our ports, are not interested in Manchester, Bristol, Felixstowe and such places. They are only the thin end of the wedge. They want to get their hands on Fowey".
I do not take that extreme view, because that important, but small port is one that the Government could have taken over long ago had they wished. But I take the point made by other hon. Members that we are not clear about what is to happen to these small ports under the terms of Clause 24. It says that certain ports will be left under private ownership where they are used exclusively or almost exclusively by a single owner. But what happens if eventually several users use a port almost exclusively for the import or export of one product, as is the case in Fowey?
A provision like Clause 50, which relates to such matters as dock labour and refers to the Act of 1946, is one which it will be necessary to probe in Committee in order to discover the Government's real intentions. I am satisfied that these smaller ports are run far more efficiently and effectively by their private owners and the labour force they employ than would be the case if they were controlled by a remote national port authority at a distance far removed from their geographical locations.
Most of the points that I had hoped to raise now can be dealt with in Committee. I see certain familiar faces around me, and it is likely that that Committee will consist of many hon. Members who served on the Committee which considered the 1967 Transport Bill. I was privileged to serve on that Committee, and I believe that a detailed study of each Clause and Schedule of this Bill will reveal that it is nothing more and nothing less than a continuation of the Transport Act. It is a natural extension of the powers which the Government assumed under the provisions of that Measure.
Those hon. Members who served on that earlier Committee will know that we had some success in modifying the intentions expressed' originally in the Transport Bill. I hope that the members of the Committee which considers this important piece of legislation will have the same opportunity to co-operate with each other and to achieve a similar success in terms of modification and change.
I recognise that it is necessary for certain reorganisations to take place in our ports. I also recognise the problems which have existed between labour and management and that, over many years, far too little has been done to resolve them. However, I cannot support the Bill in its present form. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I can only pin my hopes on the Committee and Report stages, when I trust that changes will be made to make it far more acceptable than it is at present. In its present form, I must regretfully ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to join me in voting against a Second Reading.
I do not find a great deal to agree with in the speech of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell.) But I do not think, and apparently he does not, that nationalisation is the main point involved. Nationalisation is just the first step in what needs to be done. The essence of the Bill is not nationalisation, it is the establishment of a National Ports Authority and its ancillaries. I hope that it will be a very strong authority. In my constituency I have found very little criticism of nationalisation. Employers, dock workers and most other people share the general feeling that nationalisation is sensible. This merely clears the way for the main issues.
However, I thought that the hon. Gentleman begged the question when he spoke about Manchester as a port, about Fowey as a port, and so on. The question that this House has to decide is whether all the 40 or so ports affected by this Measure are to be allowed, or encouraged, to continue in their individual ways, or whether there is to be some kind of national strategy. That is the point at issue.
In many cases there is no doubt that individual ports have remarkably effective histories. However, 40 ports are to be included in the nationalisation plans proposed by the Bill. How many of them will be container ports? I suggest that there might be eight or nine at the outside, and a number of hon. Members would put it at a lower figure. But who decides? Does Manchester go ahead and say that it will build container wharves and buy the necessary cranes, or does Fowey? This is far too big a national investment. We cannot allow over-investment. We have to decide, as a matter of national policy, where the capital for containerisation is to go.
The same applies, for example, to dry dock facilities for the very big ships. Where are we to build the dry docks to take ships of 250,000 deadweight tons? Does Manchester decide? Does Bristol decide?
There was a remarkable contrast between the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). My hon. Friend put the essence of the problem while the hon. Member for Worcester was still talking about individual ports. Where do we put the giant dry docks which will involve enormous expenditure of capital? Do we allow Bristol, Manchester, or each individual port to say that it will or will not have them? Or is there some point in the country deciding that this should be done on a national basis? This seems to me the essence of what is proposed in the Bill.
Nationalisation is merely the paving of the way for the actual work to be done. The work to be done is the setting up of, I hope, a very strong National Ports Authority and, below that, effective local port authorities in the ports.
I have some criticism to make on this aspect of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) practically made my speech for me on this point. He represents a British Transport Docks Port as I do, and has put similar arguments to the ones that I should have liked to put. I am not likely to be able to put them better than he has done.
I have some doubts about the structure of committees envisaged in the Bill. The National Ports Authority is all right if it is strong. The local ports authorities are all right if they are given such a set-up that we get unimpeded managerial initiative and control.
But alongside these authorities is the shadow system of advisory committees, and in Scotland the possibility of another tier between the local ports authorities and the National Ports Authority. I hope that this will not take place. I am very much against it. What a lot of committees to deal with an industry, the essence of which is decision by management, not general discussion. In the ports problems arise quickly and need immediate decision. This kind of set-up is likely to impede managerial decisions in the ports.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test, I found that the British Transport Docks Board, when it had the port of Grangemouth under its wing, was doing a first-class job. It had a strong central directive. It had chairmen who made a point of getting to know the port. Sir Arthur Kirby and his predecessor, Sir Robert Letch, used to visit Grangemouth several times a year. They got to know the dockers. All this helps towards good organisation. The British Transport Docks Board did all the things that required to be done, and it made a profit. It had good labour relations and a good programme of research and training for its people.
I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar in criticism of one aspect of its work, but it is universally agreed to have been a very successful docks organisation.
An article in "The Dock and Harbour Authority" of April this year, states:
The Government proposals…seek to interpose between central management and the individual port management an executive body responsible for the number of ports in an estuary or region.
This was s written before the regions were wiped out.
Assuming an increased number of the advisory boards, which is also proposed, it is difficult to see what practical advantage would result from having the additional executive bodies. The outcome could be a dilution of the effectiveness of central management and an only partial eradication of parochialism in local management.
The writer points out that the British Railways Board might be used as an example of a different kind of management. But he led up to this by mentioning the British Transport Docks Board, which is the kind of example we should have in mind in connection with the National Ports Authority and its various subordinate authorities.
The changeover in the Forth Ports Authority, which is in my area, illustrates the danger from the new set-up proposed in the Bill. When Grangemouth, which is a small town but a port doing well over the 5 million tons minimum, was under the British Transport Docks Board and the manager—it was then under the charge of one man who ran it very well—wanted decisions from higher up, he could write or get on the telephone to the British Transport Docks Board and things went well. Now we have a different situation envisaged. We are to have an estuarial set-up, so it is difficult to get decisions. The executive chap, when asked a question, will say, "I cannot tell you that now. I shall have to go to the board.". Then not.
Everyone to whom I have spoken about this in Grangemouth agrees that two recent strikes—a strike of dock gatemen and a strike of engineers—would not have taken place under the old set-up, because the manager knew the docks and the men, why they were striking, what they wanted, and whether it was right to offer them something or not. The kind of quick, knowledgeable decision he could make will not be possible with an estuarial authority. This is the difficulty that I foresee in the set-up proposed in the Bill. There is too much fluffiness about it and too much inclination to drown the possibility of action by the necessity for setting up committees.
One thing emphasised by both sides of the industry and by those people who do not fit into either one side or the other in Grangemouth is that the place must be run by practical men. Everybody expressed a good deal of impatience about lawyers, chartered accountants and such people being on the boards. This may be a special local attitude I do not know. Anyhow, they desire the port to be run by a professional ports man who knows the port. This is what has been put to me all round and it seems sensible.
I have already indicated what I feel about Scotland's position in the structure. The regional authorities which, have been dropped in favour of estuarial authorities, from the proposal of my right hon. Friend's predecessor, I thought, as most people seem to think, are much better. The proposal is that in the nation of Scotland—I do not like applying the word "region" to Scotland—there shall be this additional tier interposed. This would produce the weaknesses that we would have had elsewhere. We want a strong central direction and strong local ports organisation which allows for good managerial initiative. If we interpose the third tier we will be asking for trouble. I will not go into that now. I could go into a lot of detail, and possibly I will get an opportunity to put further points in Committee.
I support the idea of taking the workers in the docks under the one umbrella of the new nationalised set-up.
There are absurd anomalies in the docks. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar touched on a number of essential points, but he referred only briefly to what seems to be the foundation of the whole thing. The public pay for the installations at the docks. With the exception of Manchester, the ports to be taken over are publicly owned. The quays, the cranes, the transport, and so on, are provided from public funds, and yet, in the blunt words of some of my constituents, stevedores use these facilities as they wish for their own businesses. I do not think that my constituent made his comments with any intention of denigrating stevedores. They do a very good job at Grangemouth. Labour relations there are very good, and have been for a very long time. The fact is, however, that the public are providing the capital and private organisations are using the equipment.
There are other anomalies. Tug boats do not figure in the Bill, but they are as good an illustration as any in my area of the complexity of the arrangements which exist. The two main ports in my area are Grangemouth, and Leith which is further down the river. The tug boats at Leith are owned by the estuarial authority, the Forth Ports Authority. Those at Grangemouth are owned by a private company.
What will happen to the management of the estuary in circumstances like that? Will there not be considerable difficulties? The tug boats will be run by a private company which has no obligation to the docks, and the docks manager will have no power to step in when difficulties arise. A few months ago there was a strike among the tug boatmen in Grangemouth. It lasted for 10 days, and large tankers and other ships were left outside the docks while the poor docks manager had to wait for the strike to be settled. He could only use his influence—he had no authority. Part of the trouble arose from the difficulty of getting in touch with the directors some of whom I am told, did not want to bother to come to Grangemouth. That is the kind of trouble which should be avoided by nationalisation.
Unless I have missed something in the Bill, I can see only one reference to the passing of information from the authorities to anyone else, and that is the limited reference in Clause 41. The purpose of passing on information in that Clause is to enable the men concerned to take part in discussions. Dock workers in Grangemouth, or Bristol, or anywhere else, want to know what is happening about their docks. They want to know what proposals are being made. They want to know what things are being considered by higher authority. But no one tells them. This is a serious defect in the Bill. We must, in these days, and particularly with a Labour Government, take the dock-workers along with us. Dock workers in Grangemouth cannot discover, through their Member of Parliament, or in any other way, what is being discussed about their docks. There may be a need for new dock gates. Someone says that the matter is being considered, but no one will say what proposals are being made, or what is being done. This affects the workers, and I am sorry that there is no provision in the Bill to deal with this. If I am on the Committee, I hope that with the assistance of my hon. Friends, and perhaps some hon. Gentleman opposite, it will be possible to improvet the Bill in this respect.
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson), who has spoken from his experience and knowledge of the transport docks in his constituency, has said many sensible things. I think, however, that he shares my surprise that the Minister did not refer to the situation in the Scottish docks. The Clyde Port Authority, the Forth Ports Authority and the British Transport Docks Board docks at Ayr and Troune will be affected by these proposals. We want to know what will be the result of the Government's proposals, More important, we want to know whether a Scottish Ports Authority is being considered as part of the plan.
Apart from that, people in the Clyde in particular are extremely concerned about the proposal to form a new National Ports Authority, with all the change, all the delay, and all the administation which that will mean. At the moment the Clyde is on the threshold of a major breakthrough to take advantage of our unique deep water facilities. The Clyde Port Authority has put forward a proposal for building an ore terminal, but the proposal has not been sanctioned, although the authority has offered to provide the £12 million which is required for this purpose.
It has been suggested by some hon. Gentlemen opposite that what is needed is a central decision-making organisation which will in some way overcome the present problems. We heard from the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) about the difficulties in getting a decisions. When we realise the difficulties experienced on the Clyde, of which the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) is aware, in getting a decision, and when we realise the terrible frustration which follows from not being able to take advantage of unique opportunities, we hope that one thing which will not stem from the Bill is more frustrating delays in taking decisions which could help this country and help our transport industry.
It has generally been agreed that the docks in Britain have great problems. Emphasis has been placed on labour problems in this industry. What has not been appreciated is that the Bill will be utterly irrelevant to the problems facing this industry. This is one of the most irrelevant and pointless Bills ever to be presented to the House. It will not deal with the problems. It will have an adverse and damaging effect, and bring with it all the problems and nonsense which one usually finds with nationalisation. To that extent it is unfortunate, because the one thing which will almost—
What is the hon. Gentleman talking about? The Cathcart circle in my constituency is a busy, electrified line. I think that the hon. Gentleman has made a point which is not only foolish and irrelevant, but one which will damage any case that he might want to make.
It has been said that this change in ownership will bring with it certain advantages. What is being proposed is simply putting the State in place of groups of public authorities, in some cases municipal enterprises, and in one case a privately-owned authority. They will be brought together, and the State will be the controlling factor instead of various local bodies. This will create more problems, and more bureaucracy. What is more important, it is pointless, and it will destroy what local interest and concern there is in many of these areas.
The most crazy suggestion put forward is that in opposing the Bill we are guilty of bringing docks and harbours into a shuttlecock situation and will therefore destroy confidence in the docks. The suggestion is that whenever the Labour Party or the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) issue a pamphlet saying they would like to take control of an industry and we say that we shall oppose such nationalisation, we are thereby bringing uncertainty into the industry. It is a most outrageous proposal that whenever the Labour Party casts its eye on an industry which it would like to absorb, to take over or bring into State administration and we say we shall try to change it, we are making for uncertainty. It is the absurd Left-wing ideas put forward by the Labour Party that make the position uncertain.
We agree that the docks have problems. Hon. Members opposite should look around to see how those problems can be overcome. I challenge them to say where there are docks which operate well in other countries where they have a nationalised industry and strong central control. Do we find them in Russia? Far from it. We find the situation in Antwerp and Rotterdam which have not gone in for widespread nationalisation of port authorities but have concentrated on bringing the maximum amount of competition and private enterprise into the situation and where there is genuine local control of dock areas.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) should not cast his eyes on doctrinaire solutions for difficult problebs. He should look for examples of success elsewhere and try to copy them and not adopt the miserable and nasty way of Socialism which is doing to much damage.
If the hon. Member says that nationalisation is innovation, I remind him of what nationalisation has meant to Britain since this Government came to power. Since they came to power we have written off over £200 million of capital, over £2 million a day. Has he read Hansard of last week and seen how household goods and other essentials have gone up in price by half-a-crown in the pound and the cost of nationalised industries products by 5s. in the pound. Nationalisation is bad for the country.
If the hon. Member is considering the long-term problems of Britain, let him look at the fact that more than one person in every five is employed by the State or local authorities here, whereas in America there is one in 11 and in Japan one in 20. Those are places where progress is made. I suggest that any extension of State participation in industry at present is a great mistake.
The hon. Member for Poplar suggested that if we had nationalisation of the ports there would be more investment in the docks. He said that of all places the docks had been neglecting investment while other means of transport such as the railways were making more investment. Has he seen the National Plan which stated that investment needed by the railways was £135 million per annum at 1964 prices? In every year since the publication of the National Plan, which was the greatest contribution to the wastepaper drive there has been for many years, we have seen railway investment going down year by year until this year, as the Minister will confirm, it is under £80 million, less than half in value what was called for in 1964. The railways are starved of investment. If the hon. Member for Poplar is looking to this Bill and to nationalisation as a means of getting money for investment, he is going the wrong way about it.
The hon. Member said that the Bill would enable us to use the potential in the ports. The potential was there, but under the master plan and State control, what has been the position?
Has the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire looked at the Tilbury container problem? The terminal, which O.C.L. is unable to use, represents £5 million, £2½ million from the Port of London Authority and £2½ million from the O.C.L. We had a disaster there and a national disgrace which does not stem from the system of control but unfortunately from the labour situation in that area. What about the problem in London? Are facilities used to the full? Is there shift-working, overtime working and flexibility that there should be? We know that is not happening because of the present dispute and the claim that there should be uniform rates in closed docks. The claim could have disastrous effects on dockers throughout the country.
This is a crazy Bill which will contribute little if anything to what is a serious problem for Britain. Within the Bill itself there are many questions which my hon. Friends and I will want to look at in Committee. I ask the Minister to deal with two specific points when he winds up the debate. First, what about the dock labour schemes? Are they to be preserved in future? Since decasualisation and the guarantees which have been given of the prospect of employment with the National Ports Authority covering 95 per cent., what is the point of continuing the schemes? Will this not mean duplication of bureaucracy? Will not employers in the docks be put in a unique situation with responsibility which we do not ask of others?
I hope that if the Bill becomes law it will be sensible. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) was very kind to the Government when he said that we did not have a chance of discussing the Transport Bill in Committee. Jackboot tactics prevented discussion of that Bill. I hope that we shall not have the same tactics employed on this Bill. We look to the future when we shall not require the dock labour schemes in their present form.
Can the Minister say something about Scotland? We are used under this Government to finding Scotland neglected, but it was remarkable that in the Minister's opening speech there was no reference to Scotland. We want to know whether the magnificent and progressive plans for port industrialisation in the Clyde area will be further delayed. My fear is that reorganisation of this sort, which is basically transferring control and ownership from local bodies and authorities to public bodies in different areas of State control, will mean more delay and more frustration for those who want to get on with the job. Everyone has admitted that the ports have real problems. We should be looking for solutions to those problems and giving the maximum encouragement to people in the docks to get on with the job which needs to be done. A change in ownership and control and this silly idea of stark Socialism will deter progress and cause delay.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has whipped himself up into an irate state. I do not wish to hurt him any further, but I welcome the Bill. It has been apparent for a very long time that something fundamental needed to be done to this industry so vital to our export tirade, upon which we as a nation depend for a living.
In recent years the industry has been subject to many inquiries. It reminds me in some ways of another industry with which I had some connection, the coal mining industry, which was also subject to many inquiries, commissions and so on before it was eventually nationalised in 1947.
Sir Arthur Kirby, who knows the ports industry intimately, said four years ago that had we set out to devise the most difficult way to work our ports we could not have succeeded better. That is a pretty formidable indictment. If anyone had needed any further convincing, he should have been convinced after listening to the masterly exposition of my hon. Friend the member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), but, alas, the hon. Member for Cathcart obviously is not.
The industry has developed by historical accident, so that we have various types of port ownership and considerable differences in the powers and constitutions of the port authorities, fragmentation of responsibility for port functions, and a whole conglomeration of agencies and documents at every stage of port life.
My conclusion is that any fair-minded person should agree that the measures advocated by the Government are necessary, and that the only opposition could be on narrow doctrinaire lines, such as the type of economic doctrines that have been advocated by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell).
My only criticism of the Bill, like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar, is that it does not go quite far enough. It is a watered-down version of the proposals in the Deposited Paper 3830 of July, 1967. The criterion then was 100,000 tons of foreign trade handled annually, and the total number of ports was to be 72. But now, as a result of the White Paper of January, 1969, and the proposals in the Bill, the criterion is the handling of a total trade of 5 million tons a year, and consequently the number of ports has been reduced to 44.
One small criticism is that some of the ports left out are those that are profitable and rapidly expanding, such as Felixstowe and Shoreham. Many people intimately connected with the industry are asking whether this could not lead to a further fragmentation of the industry. Could not my right hon. Friend the Minister consider requiring the new National Ports Authority to present plans in a short time for taking over those ports as well? If not, why not? According to the previous Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), when a port develops to 5 million tons of trade annually it will not necessarily be taken over. That is not satisfactory, and should be reconsidered.
I have tended so far to deal with the rather dismal aspects of the port situation. But there are certain bright spots. I am particularly interested in, and proud of, the South Wales ports which, with the exception of Milford Haven, are owned by the publicly-controlled British Transport Docks Board. With the decline of the coal trade in South Wales, they were in a very parlous condition. I am glad to say that they have been rescued and are now an efficient organisation. A large measure of their success results from their being organised as a group. This cannot be over-emphasised.
I am glad that the success of the South Wales ports is recognised even by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), who is his party's principal spokesman on Welsh affairs. This means that so far we have already had two Front Bench speeches. He said that we would have London decisions. But I am sure that he is aware that the existing South Wales ports of the British Transport Docks Board already have their headquarters in London. But they have a good deal of local autonomy and efficient management in South Wales, and I am sure that that will continue. It was particularly welcome to me to see that he is now such an ardent advocate of public ownership. What is the Biblical quotation?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman's conversion in that sense.
The hon. Gentleman also said on the day the Queen's Speech was published that the ports of Wales were now making profits and that any attempt to amalgamate them with other ports would be misconceived. Those were his words quoted in our local paper, the Western Mail. That was all very well, but I still wonder to which ports he referred, because in the September issue of the trade journal Ports and Terminals his hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said that she was concerned that under the Government's reorganisation proposals the profits of the oil terminal of Milford Haven might be syphoned off to subsidise the loss-making ports of South Wales. Where are these loss-making ports? We have grown used to this sort of duplicity by the Tory Party in South Wales. We have noticed for a long time that they preach one policy on one side of the Bristol Channel —the Bristol side—and another on the South Wales side.
Last year all the South Wales ports made a profit, and over the years they have contributed substantially to the overall profits of the publicly-owned British Transport Docks Board. I say to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), who has made one of his rare appearances today, that if it is eventually decided to group Milford Haven with the other South Wales ports, it will at least belong to an efficient organisation and there will be nothing to worry about in that development.
The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) thought that these proposals would be bad for the South Wales ports. I feel, on the contrary, that we could well get an addition to the trade of South Wales with more rationalisation once these proposals are implemented and working.
Among the South Wales ports owned by the Docks Board, it is only in my constituency of Newport where there is an element of private stevedoring. Half the dockers are employed by the Docks Board and the other half by a private company. I believe, and I have heard this confirmed by numerous dockers, that this is anomalous, and under the Bill there is need to create a set up whereby all the dockers would be employed by the new authority. I want to see this established, and the sooner the whole thing is rationalised the better.
Comparatively speaking, however, the South Wales ports are in a relatively favourable position when one considers the difficulties in other ports, which have a multitude of private employers, with all the difficulties that that brings to industrial relations. Provision is made in the Bill that one year after vesting day the National Ports Authority will prepare a scheme whereby it can become the principal employer of dock labour. The Bill should have been a little more straightforward in this. I think that this sort of result could have been achieved by an act of public ownership itself.
The proposals in Clause 41, dealing with negotiations and consultations with the staff, need strengthening. I have heard critics, including some of my hon. Friends, say that the trade unions do not want to get involved in managerial functions. In the ports industry, my union, the Transport and General Workers' Union, is the one principally involved. There is no ambiguity about its position at the present time. The Finance and General Purposes Committee of its National Executive and its National Dock Delegate Conference are on record as saying that they want representatives on the National Ports Council and its subsidiary bodies. The union feels that there is need to advance along the line of local joint control committees involving representatives of all sections of the dockers.
There is a vast revenue of expertise among dock workers even today, and in the T. and G.W.U. a considerable amount of training is being done of shop stewards. These joint control committees could involve themselves with such matters as safety, promotion, the operation of equipment, and overtime. It is, therefore, pointless for my right hon. Friend to defend his rather routine proposals on the basis of non-co-operation by the principal trade union concerned. A clear case has been made out for a further step forward. The question of industrial relations is the most important one affecting the industry at present. I believe that a major extension of worker participation can help to improve matters, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give every encouragement to further developments in this vital sector.
It is a privilege to take part in this debate, particularly as I must be one of the few hon. Members who does not have a close constituency connection with the ports or docks. I am delighted to speak following the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes), a fellow Welshman. I know the docks in his area well, and I wish that I could agree with him about the likely outcome of the Bill.
In view of the tremendous progress that has been made and the great recovery that has occurred in Wales following the contraction of the coal industry, I fear that this Measure will not help to further that progress. Instead, the ports are likely to suffer. On another occasion the hon. Member for Newport and I can discuss this issue at length.
We note the annual way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite are sent home in a happy mood for Christmas. It is not a coincidence that on 20th December, 1967, we had the Second Reading of the Transport Bill, which became an Act the following October; that on 17th December, 1968, we had the Second Reading of the Transport (London) Bill; while today, 18th December, we have the Second Reading of this Measure, which I hope will never become an Act.
What is the common link between these three Measures? They all contain powers to manufacture, repair and supply by the nationalised bodies. That is what pleases hon. Gentlemen opposite so much, although one wonders why suddenly, at this stage in the Government's history, the ports have come to the fore.
It is interesting to see what the Labour Party told the electors a few years ago about the ports. For example, the Labour Party's 1964 election manifesto simply said:
The Labour Party will draw up a National Plan
—that was not "the" National Plan—
for transport covering various networks, including port services".
In 1966 hon. Gentlemen opposite went a little further and in that year's manifesto itemised six points of transport to be dealt with as part of their policy. One was to carry out the road programme and another was to co-ordinate other forms of transport. Only one of the six was clarified in the manifesto, and we were told that certain steps would be taken.
…in order to speed up the vital flow of exports"—
and that the ports would be in for
reorganisation and modernization…
What has happened in this process of speeding up the nation's exports? In the White Paper of the last year we were told that there was a need to carry out a major speeding-up programme, but there was not a word about exports. When the White Paper was discussed in another place last April Lord Shepherd spoke twice for the Government but did not use the word "exports" once. Nor did the Minister mention the word today.
The subject of exports has been completed dropped as a reason for action of this kind. The simple answer is that the days when the Labour Party used their excuse for taking this sort of action have gone. Time is running out for them and, as a last desperate bid, they have introduced this Measure.
"Nationalisation" is no longer an "in" word and that is why the Labour Party disguises it by referring to "reorganisation". As in the late 1940s when time was running out for them and they threatened to "mutualise" the insurance companies—they did not like to use the word "nationalise" even then —so they are adopting that attitude now.
In this case the Government are forming a monopoly which will be far greater than the monopoly possessed by any other nationalised industry. At least gas and electricity compete with each other. The ports monopoly will be on its own. It will be the largest of its kind—this at a time when the Government are supposed to be trying to do away with monopolies and strengthen the Monopolies Commission.
In recent history we have had a White Paper giving faint praise to the Rochdale Report, which represented a great step forward in reorganising the ports. That was followed by the Harbours Act, 1964. When that was proceeding through Parliament the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Patronage Secretary said, speaking for the Opposition:
I say at once that the Minister can be assured that the Bill will get an unopposed Second Reading."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th Dec., 1963; Vol. 685, c. 1390.]
Naturally, hon. Gentlemen opposite always do what the present Patronage Secretary says; and the Bill received an unopposed Second Reading.
Then we had the report by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), who has great knowledge of the subject, although I must admit that I do not agree with him. In June, 1966, we had the Transport White Paper which said that it was necessary to take immediate steps to bring the ports into public ownership, but on 20th July of that year other more important and more urgent steps were needed, and so we heard no more about that. In April, 1967, the right hon. Lady was saying that nationalisation would come during this Parliament and now at the tail end so it is.
This is not a large Bill by the standards of the Transport Act, 1968, as those of us who fought that legislation will remember, but it has 61 Clauses and 11 Schedules. Over and over again it contains the phrase which those of us who fought the 1968 Act came to know so well, the implication that the Minister knows best.
It comes in Clause 9, where it is said that an order made under this Clause shall contain such information as appears to the Minister to be necessary, right through to Clause 37, which is particularly important because it deals with objections to the vesting orders. Clause 37 says:
The Minister shall not be required…to cause an inquiry to be held…where the Minister…is satisfied that effect ought to be given to the objection"—
that is fair enough—
or where it appears to the Minister that the objection is of a frivolous or trivial nature"—
that is all right—
or relates exclusively to, or ought to be dealt with by adjustment of, the compensation payable in respect of the port business.
I do not like the word "exclusively" at all, and in Committee I shall question the Minister closely about it and try to take it out. It gives him far greater powers than he should have.
I shall raise many questions about Clause 17, which ends the National Ports Council. I should like to know who is to collect the national ports statistics, because it is essential for policy and planning that they should be known. But will the sector not being taken over have to give its figures to its competitors in the National Ports Authority?
We are given the definition of a stock exchange valuation for compensation for taking over at the present time, but in the future I understand that it is to be on a willing seller basis, although I doubt whether there will be many willing sellers. We shall want to know much more about that.
We shall want to know more about transfers to the N.P.A. and whether there can be reserve acquisitions and what the criteria will be. The Minister said fiat there will be no automatic decision about the 5 million ton figure, but that will not be very comforting to those ports which are reaching that figure and must be frightened of being gobbled up as soon as they get within reasonable distance of it.
We shall want to know much more about the danger of cross-subsidisation. The proposals for the separation of accounts are not at all clear, and we shall want to be sure that each port is accounted for separately so that we know the different classes of activity of each port board. We shall want to know details of turnover, contributions to profits and losses and capital employed to make sure that there is equal opportunity for all.
I return to what I was saying about manufacture, repair and supply. In the Transport Act, 1968, we gave powers to the P.T.A.s, British Railways Board and the British Waterways Board to undertake this work, and in 1969 we gave permission to the London Transport Executive. The Bill would allow the N.P.A. the same power. Each time we give this power, we add to the competition which private industry has to face against the vast ramifications of the nationalised industries.
It is a sorry story, and I hope that the Bill will never become law. What a Bill to be debating on this last Government business day of the 1960s! If it makes hon. Members opposite happy, that is one thing, but I am sure that it will not make the people in this great industry happy, and it will not make the people in the country happy either. I shall be happy to oppose it.
The Second Reading of this Bill is a natural and continuous process for me, arising principally from the 1968 Transport Act. It was said earlier that that Measure spent five months in Committee. It was a marathon effort, and I am rather glad at this juncture to be speaking on a Bill so closely related to the objectives of the Transport Act. Secondly, as Chairman of the Ports Sub-Committee of the Transport Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party, I have a continuous interest in the form and shape of the Bill. Thirdly, as a Member for a constituency which is involved with the port business of the nation, one of the largest of the 15 major ports named in the National Ports Council Report—namely, the Hartlepool and Tees Port Authority—I am directly involved.
It is right to say in the latter connection that I am very pleased with the professionalism which has been exercised in the new Hartlepool and Tees Port Authority, brought about by Act of Parliament in 1965. I am pleased that this professionalism has resulted in improving efficiency. In such a debate as this, however, we must not try to pluck from the efficient elements or from the inefficient elements of the port industry arguments which are lost in the confusion of political philosophy. There has been some of that today, and one hon. Member even allowed the intonations of his voice to give away his prejudice when he talked about political dogma.
What we have to do is to address ourselves to the facts and to call evidence supporting them. Clearly we will draw from the facts the kind of information which will persuade most reasonable men and women.
In The Times of 7th July, 1967—and I go back to that date because the report of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) had been published a little earlier and had become a matter of public interest—it was said:
Nationalisation will undoubtedly be opposed by employers of port labour and by many who have investments in the docks, but it is difficult not to feel that nationalisation is the logical conclusion to the process of increasing public involvement in the docks.
What is the extent of public involvement in the docks? Arising from the report of the Rochdale Committee, which was set up in 1961, we had the natural follow-through of the report with the subsequent report of the National Ports Council. The hon. Member for Worcester
(Mr. Peter Walker) earlier tried to take credit for the setting-up of the Rochdale Committee and all that flowed from it. What he did not say was that out of the 140 recommendations made by the Rochdale Committee there was one outstanding recommendation—the setting up of a National Ports Authority with powers—and the Conservative Party rejected it.
Therefore, it was not the Labour Party which initiated the idea of a report to this House. It has always been the belief of the Labour Party that certain areas of the economy must be involved with public accountability. The Conservative Party set up the Rochdale Commission, and there flowed from that a recommendation for a National Ports Authority. Instead of activating that recommendation, the Conservative Party introduced an advisory body—the National Ports Council.
The National Ports Council has not only done a great deal of work by way of advice and consultation but has helped to facilitate Government financial support for the ports. In 1966 one of the Government's first actions was to involve itself with the capital investment programme involving the building of 70 berths and the renovation of 46 berths at a capital cost of £150 million. They gave an undertaking to increase the investment programme in terms of grants and loans. Between 1966 and 1970 the programme amounted to about £250 million. This is a completely different figure in terms of public support from the £18 million per year which was the average for the years just preceding 1964. With this extensive amount of public involvement in terms of hard cash, there must obviously be public accountability.
The next piece of evidence which I wish to refer to concerns the state of the ports. I quote from The Guardian dated 18th July, 1969:
In some ports the shipowners, the dock authority, the wharf landlords, stevedore employers, barge owners, and transport firms all belong to different organisations. In almost all ports there are far too many separate agencies trying to run separate segments of the system. In order to bring some unity of control, there are shipowners who have their own berths and run subsidiary stevedore companies. Some port authorities own all the wharfs and sheds and may even run a stevedoring firm of their own. But the permutations are numerous and the confusion unnerving".
That is the state of affairs in many ports—and, incidentally, not in those which are already nationalised, of which there are 22. The British Transport Docks Board has a remarkable standard compared with the conditions quoted in the report in The Guardian.
It is reasonable to call upon a final piece of evidence, and this comes from no less an authority than Mr. Finnis, Chairman of the British Transport Docks Board. On the reorganisation of the ports he said in his presidential address to the Institute of Transport in November 1967:
It is not for me, at this time, to comment on the reasons for nationalisation but I can say that there is a considerable body of opinion within the industry which favours a strong central National Ports Authority. There is a necessity for central planning and overall control of finance and while the Government took powers in 1964 to control port development, the appointment of the National Ports Council was a compromise between what was proposed by Lord Rochdale's Committee and what is now planned and, like many compromises, has given real satisfaction to only a small number of those concerned.
If we take out of the debate the emotional and synthetic anger that arises out of different political postures and address ourselves to the facts, as I have tried to do, we can agree that the amount of public involvement presents us with a strong case for nationalisation, and that the working conditions in the ports are so bad that they should be brought up to the standards which are adopted by the British Docks Board. We can also agree on the recommendations of the Rochdale Committee so adequately explained by Mr. Finnis, the Chairman of the British Docks Board. Perhaps I might quote a final paragraph from his well thought-out speech:
It may seem strange that an industry which is already predominantly publicly owned should be nationalised, and equally strange that we should now be undertaking changes in organisation and labour arrangements with further changes to come in 1970. The answer lies in the unsatisfactory arrangements in the past. Many of us have striven for a long period of time towards improved labour conditions and no one among the more enlightened employers would wish to see weekly employment delayed longer than was essential.
There, again, is a reference to the employment of labour.
My fourth point is not factual, as were my three earlier points, but it is nevertheless one which it is essential for the House to bear in mind. We cannot in Great Britain have improvements in our road system, our rail system and our communications, nor can we have an upsurge in economic activity—and I would remind the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) that last year we earned £10,000 in foreign earnings, a larger amount per head of the population than in any other country, including America—unless the ports are brought within the authority of the National Ports Authority. Some ports suffer under stringent financial limitations and are unable to compete with modernised ports.
I suggest that we in Britain should not look upon the divisions of political opinion and the sweeping public statements based upon flimsy foundations but should address ourselves to the facts as we see them in this country. We shall find that we shall get answers to many of our problems far more quickly. Certainly in this case it will bring about a state in our ports which will be a final contribution to the great programme that we have produced in this country for the improvement of transport internally as well as externally.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I make no personal complaint—as I have an Adjournment debate tomorrow, I cannot really complain on that score—but some of us have been glued to our seats since the beginning of the debate—my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) and other hon. Members opposite, who have a powerful claim to speak— and we do marvel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that some hon. Members who have not been present in the Chamber all that long have been called and have then gone away again. Is there not—
Order. I am seized of the point which the hon. Gentleman raises. Many hon. Members are often disappointed. The hon. Gentleman must not cast any reflection on the Chair —and I accept that he has no wish to do so—but he must understand that it is difficult for the Chair to call all who wish to speak when hon. Members speak at length.
I sympathise with hon. Members who wanted to speak because throughout the country there is real anxiety at local level, particularly in the medium-size and smaller ports, at the effect which the National Ports Authority is likely to have. It is refreshing that we have had so many contributions from hon. Members who have been able to explain the dilemmas in their own areas, though it is a pity that we have not had as many contributions as we should have liked.
I start with the speech of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), because, without doubt, this Bill began, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) pointed out, with the hon. Member for Poplar. I greatly regret that, for personal reasons, I was not able to listen to the whole of his speech, but I listened carefully to the part which I did hear.
The hon. Member made clear that he believed that the British port system was gravely defective, with a number of serious deficiencies. He was concerned that the British ports could become the bottlenecks of the world—all in fine phrases and graphically expressed. I shall quote from a major docks employer to give the opposite point of view. [Interruption.] I appreciate that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) does not like the idea of an employer's view being expressed, but the House is entitled to take, on the one hand, the view of the hon. Member for Poplar and, on the other hand, the view of a major employer to see what the contrast is.
The quotation is:
A major piece of nonsense—and a very popular one—is that our British ports are all behind the rest of the world—and especially the Continent—in the provision of adequate and modern facilities. In presenting the recent White Paper on Ports Nationalisation, Lord Shepherd said, I do not think there is any doubt that our ports do not compare well with the major docks in Europe and in any other part of the world.' I reckon that this was a piece of unfortunate denigration to come from a noble Lord, and even worse from a Government spokesman. It is certainly a pretty shaky justification for nationalisation and would not stand up to serious examination.
That is the view of a major employer and it must be set against the view of the hon. Member for Poplar.
It is the former major employer of the British Transport Docks Board, Sir Arthur Kirby, the present Chairman of the National Ports Council. We are entitled to take the view of the man who did so much to build up the British Transport Docks Board and has been chosen by the Government to succeed Lord Rochdale on the National Ports Council. This is one of the most experienced and respected men in the ports industry. To set against him, we have the view of the hon. Member for Poplar. I have no doubt where my judgment will go, and I shall come back to the views of the hon. Member for Poplar later on.
Five years ago there was agreement in the House—it is crucial to understand this—on the broad outline of future policy for the ports. There were two major debates, first on the Rochdale Report and then on the Harbours Act, 1964. At that time, hon. Members opposite, then sitting on these benches, were in accord with what Rochdale said and with what the Conservative Government enacted in 1964. It was accepted that the growth of international trade, coupled with a technical revolution in freight movement techniques and containerisation, had imposed on the ports industry a burden which demanded modernisation and a challenging development along those lines.
Undoubtedly, there had been a need for more intensive capital investment in an industry which until that stage had been essentially a labour-intensive industry. At the same time, there were the difficulties which arose from the casual labour system, which was rightly hated and feared by people who had suffered under it. All this brought about a crisis in the industry in Britain exactly as it did in all other ports of the world. Certain decisions had to be made.
The Rochdale proposals were threefold, and there was no controversy about them. First, there should be a nonoperational port authority in order to safeguard the national, financial and planning implications about which so many hon. Members on both sides have talked at length. Second, this organisation should be encouraged to reorganise the ports on an estuarial basis. Third, decasualisation should proceed as rapidly as possible.
In 1964 there was no division in the House when those matters were discussed. Whatever criticism there may be of the Conservative's Act of 1964—the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Lead-bitter) waxed eloquent in his condemnation of it—one fact should not be forgotten. Lord Rochdale himself became the first Chairman of the National Ports Council. It does not seem likely that so distinguished a man, having spent as long as he did investigating the industry, would have been prepared to take on that burden and responsibility unless he believed that the framework within which he was to operate was reasonable.
From that moment the reorganisations which were a crucial part of the Rochdale intentions began to flow. There have been reorganisations on the Clyde, the Fourth, the Tyne, the Tees, in Southampton, on the Humber, and within the framework of the Port of London and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board—all directly flowing from the work of Lord Rochdale and the National Ports Council.
The additional investment, the second phase of all that Rochdale envisaged, began to follow as well. It is one of the great prides of this Government that they can say that more investment in British ports has taken place during their term of office. They claim that this is something for which they are responsible. But they cannot have it both ways. Either the National Ports Council and the 1964 Act were right, in which case they cannot take credit for the money which has flowed, or the Government have in some way gone behind the back of the established authority in providing the money. I do not see how they can deny that it has been essentially the National Ports Council which has been responsible for injecting the additional money.
Before we go too far in comparing wrong figure with wrong figure, it is worth asking just how much contrast there is between what is being invested in the British ports today and what was being invested in the early 1960s.
The hon. Member for The Hartlepools referred to an average figure in the early 1960s of £18 million. I have never had much faith in the hon. Gentleman's calculations, and he was wrong. I have the figures before me. In 1960 the investment was £23·6 million, which contrasts with investment today running at perhaps twice.hat amount. A sum of £23·6 million in 1960 was worth £32 million on today's costs if one injects into the calculations the index of building and construction costs. For the same amount of money one cannot build today what one could build in 1960.
To reduce to a slightly absurd state what the Government are doing, they are now spending more money on building in the ports and docks and throwing S.E.T. and extra interest charges on the building industry. These items must be added to the latest indices.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman is quoting the right figures because I supplied them to him in a Parliamentary answer today. But, whereas in 1960 he is right that the figure was £23·8 million, my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Lead-bitter) is right in saying that it was £18 million. In 1963 it was only just over £13 million.
I am most grateful to the Minister for intervening on this most important matter. I have the figures only for the National Ports Council, and they are not as he has given them. The figure for 1963 was £19 million, for 1964 £20 and for 1965 £24 million. There obviously is a difference of opinion. But my figures are not an incorrect reading of the situation. They are the figures of the National Ports Council.
The hon. Gentleman at one moment during his speech congratulated the National Ports Council on its investment programme and immediately followed it up by denying its value. He bets on all the horses to make sure he gets a winner.
I believe I have made the point clear. There has been an increase in investment which I welcome, but it is not as dramatic as hon. Gentlemen opposite would have us believe. The position must be put in perspective.
The general increase in investment is an acceptable and desirable situation which we welcome. We achieved in 1964 and in 1966 as a result of the Devlin inquiry the remarkable and exciting concept in industrial development of all-party agreement about what should happen in the future. There was all-party agreement on the Harbours Act of 1964, on restructuring under the Rochdale proposals, and on legislation relating to the decasualisation of labour. But into this atmosphere of all-party agreement hon. Gentlemen opposite injected a new note of discord by deciding that a new and dramatic change of direction was to take place in the ports industry.
I was sympathetic with the Minister at the Dispatch Box today, for this is not his own policy but something which he has inherited. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Come off it."] It is true. The Minister has only been in his present position since the plans were clearly drawn up. I am doing him the greatest possible service by saying that he has inherited the policy.
It is not right for the Minister to say that it is now time for a great step forward and that we have now reached a stage at which the next step must be taken. The Minister deceives himself. The next step was taken in 1965 when the Labour Party set up its study group to decide what should happen in the ports industry.
It is vitally important to understand how the Labour Party, under the leadership in this regard of the hon. Member for Poplar, found that new policy. Each piece of legislation in the decade dealing with the ports has been preceded by an inquiry. The Rochdale and Devlin Committees were composed of men of great eminence, experience, commercial acumen and knowledge of transportation and the law.
The Rochdale Committee took 17 months to search for its conclusions. During that period, it received evidence from 206 individuals and groups and visited ports all over the country and the world. We know what the final recommendations of its report were. The right hon. Gentleman who is now Chief Patronage Secretary spoke from this very Dispatch Box and expressed the willingness of his party to accept those conclusions.
The Devlin Committee was set up to investigate only a specific aspect of the ports industry. That, too, held numerous meetings, visited ports, and heard evidence from a number of individuals and groups. Its final report took nine months to complete, and we know that it recommended the rationalisation of the employers. I have received a Parliamentary answer which makes it clear how successful Devlin has been in this respect.
Rochdale took 17 months and Devlin nine months. The Mikardo Committee comprised one businessman, three Labour Members of Parliament, three trade union representatives, three Labour Party research assistants and one lecturer from Ruskin College, Oxford. It heard formal evidence from only 25 unidentified witnesses. It spent 1½ hours in Manchester and four hours in Liverpool. In 2½ months it completely swept out to sea all the recommendations of Rochdale and Devlin. Rochdale and Devlin took 755 days to investigate and report. The hon. Gentleman's Committee did the same work in less than 70 days.
Let us look at the increase in productivity, because we have not finished with the timetable of the hon. Member for Poplar. His Committee set out on its 70-day journey on 5th December, 1965. On 25th February it spent its one and half hours in Manchester and its four hours in Liverpool, and before the train reached London its report was written.
There was only one businessman on it. However, to take up the remark of the hon. Member for Poplar that my statement that the document was dry before it reached London is a lie, possibly it is technically inaccurate to the extent that the visit took place on 25th February whereas on 4th March it was announced that the report was in the hands of the National Executive. It had to be printed and then handed over to the National Executive for that body to read it, all within eight days. I assume that time was required for printing. If it was not, there must be a method about which I do not know.
I think that I know a great deal more than the hon. Gentleman appreciates.
In the event, who was better suited than the First Secretary of State to carry through the scheme about which we have heard so much? The only question that we have to ask ourselves is: which scheme? In 1966 the hon. Member for Poplar was saying, "Do not let there be any illusion. This is complete nationalisation, without any loophole." None of the explanations that we have listened to today about this loophole and that loophole existed in 1966.
When the right hon. Lady produced her working document on ports nationalisation in July, 1967, there was a definition that nothing under 100,000 tons traffic by way of port would go into the scheme. There would be the regional port authority system, and after that a National Ports Authority. The right hon. Lady did not feel that it was necessary, for the fulfilment of the Government's plans, that all the ports in this country, both large and small, should be brought under national ownership. It was sufficient that they should only be the larger and more significant ones.
A year and a half later, in January 1969, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), produced his White Paper. In that we found that the larger and more significant ports were no longer those with tonnages of 100,000 a year. They had become those with tonnages of 5 million a year. Of course, there was still to be the regional authorities and the National Ports Authority. It is difficult to know whether the right hon. Member for Greenwich was responsible for the changes or whether we must give credit to the present Minister of Transport.
But there is no doubt that absolute nationalisation, which was regarded as indispensable to those who made the report known as the Mikardo Report, has been modified under the pressure of time. It has been modified because hostility was such that it was not worth the Government's candle to proceed against overwhelming argument. It is not surprising. Nevertheless, the right hon. Lady would have been proud of this scheme, for it was doctrinaire, centralised and ideological. It was a product to which the First Secretary of State would have been pleased to give her name. There is not the slightest doubt that dogma was at the centre of the transport policy that she originated. It was often wondered, when she was at the Ministry of Transport, whether she could tell the difference between a six-lane highway and a one-track mind.
The fallacy of the Bill and the report that preceded it is the way that the Mikardo Committee worked. It started by asking the one question which dominates all thinking in the ports industry: what are we going to do about London? It designed a scheme to cope with the problem of London in 1965. But what it has missed is that London is changing. It is moving down river. The Port of London Authority is part of the T.E.D.C.O. scheme examining the possibilities of Foulness. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd), in an eloquent and knowledgeable speech, indicated that the desperate need is to try to see London not in historical and embittered terms but in the context of a new and different future.
The answer to London's future might in terms of scale lie more in Rotterdam, in terms of bulk handling lie more in Milford, and in terms of entrepreneurial guts lie more in Felixstowe, than in the bitter history of the London docks.
But the hon. Member for Poplar never went to Rotterdam, to Milford or to Felixtowe—
Because I have checked. The hon. Gentleman never went, for one reason: because he knew that he might find answers there which were not acceptable to this preconceived idea of how we should centralise and set up one operating body. Even if he had gone to those ports and had his doubts raised, he could have confirmed them by going across the world to Japan, Australia, America and the continent of Europe. In all those places he would have found that what we on this side are arguing is true; namely, that they are all working against the concept of a centrally organised system. They are all working—
—towards the establishment of local autonomous ports with a multiplicity of private employers within them. They are working towards a framework which provides competition within ports and competition between ports. That is the essence of international port development.
Why does Britain have to opt out? The hon. Gentleman asks why cannot we lead? It may be that this is his concept of leadership, but to me it would be returning to the past, and not moving forward to the future.
We have covered many of the points which have been made in criticism of the Bill, and we shall want to deal with them, constructively I hope, in Committee to see what we can do to improve the Bill. There is no doubt that the Government will bear a heavy responsibility for the additional uncertainty which they have now caused in this industry; for the additional incentive to disinvest by all those who are today asking what is the point of investing not only in that sector to be nationalised but in the small ports outside? What are the people of Felixstowe supposed to be thinking tonight? The only conceivable result of this Bill will be to create doubt and hold up the investment which is so urgently needed.
The major dilemma facing us on this side of the House is what we should say, because there is no doubt that the Bill in the form envisaged will never come into effect, and everybody in the port industry knows it. All they know is that for a year between now and the next general election we shall go through the charade of agreeing a framework which will not have the power to carry out the things embodied in the Bill. It is crucial that we should end the uncertainty and make clear what we intend to do.
Let there be no doubt that we shall continue to build upon the constructive work of Lords Rochdale and Devlin, and not permit, even if it is in some notional state, the National Ports Authority to continue with the powers in the Bill, because we want to encourage the emergence of local, autonomous, well-managed and proud ports. We want to look at the precedents of Bristol and Manchester to find the schemes and the systems under which we should create a port industry.
We believe that there must be competition between the ports. We believe that there must be a private sector. We believe that a decision about Foulness must be taken urgently, one way or the other, because the failure to take that decision can only create further doubt in the Port of London. We have no doubt that private employers have a part to play in British ports and docks, as in ports and docks throughout the world. The essence of that is that they must be given not less security but more security. They must be encouraged to invest capital in the docks which they service. They must be encouraged to lease berths, and, therefore, feel the security of operations which follows from that. With those ends in mind, we shall remove the role envisaged—
We have given a categorical assurance about the future of Milford Haven. We shall take steps to restore local autonomy. We shall restore Milford to the Conservancy Board, Manchester to the Ship Canal Company, and Bristol to its ratepayers.
Second, we shall not proceed with the second phase of vesting the private employers in the nationalised industries. Third, we shall remove the threat of un- certainty hanging over ports with a present cargo limit of below 5 million tons. Fourth, we shall remove from ports the powers of Section 48 of the Transport Act, 1968, to manufacture and to sell, not because we have some doctrinaire approach to this problem but because we are determined to continue the policy which this side of the House, and that side only three years ago, considered to be essential to British ports. This is a realistic policy based on the opinions of the industry and on the best advice available, and it is this for which the electorate will vote.
I start on a personal note by thanking the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) for doing his duty on behalf of his party and the House today. I understand that his wife has been taken to hospital today. I am pleased to learn that she is now a little better. I am sure the whole House wishes her a speedy recovery.
I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) present. He has had more time devoted to him by the Opposition tonight than has been devoted to anyone else. It has been like a matinee performance of "The Mikado" rather than a debate on what the Opposition would do with Britain's ports. I shall not devote too much time to my hon. Friend. We know that he talks like a docker—not like Lady Docker, I hasten to add, but like many of my constituents who are dockers. He is very blunt and to the point, and there was plenty of common sense in what he said. We shall take note of what he said about the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries of which he was Chairman, and also of the document produced by the Labour Party Transport Study Group.
It would have been more interesting if from the hon. Member for Tavistock we had had a speech on the Ports Bill. Those interested in the industry at all levels would have been glad to hear the views of the spokesman for the Opposition on the Bill. Instead, they have had a lecture on the evils of Mikardoism. As usual, the Opposition react to situations like Pavlov's dogs—not physically of course—the mere mention of public ownership makes them salivate. They do not examine the proposals in the Bill but give us a long diatribe about certain individuals.
This debate has again shown the Opposition's inability to face reality. Anyone who has objectively discussed the problems of the ports with the industry and with users must agree that the present situation is not satisfactory. Some may give up in despair. Others, like Mr. Micawber, may hope that if we do nothing something may turn up and it may work out all right in the end. But the need for re-organisation is there and it is urgent. This is not a reflection on the management of the industry or on anyone working in the industry. Nor is it a reflection on the National Ports Council. The Council has insufficient powers and does not have responsibility for the industry—indeed its terms of reference are very limited and completely inadequate. The plain need is for a new organisational structure for the industry; a structure within which we can have an industry which is managerially efficient, which can plan for the future, which can command the whole-hearted support and loyalty of all those who work in it, and which has stability and strength.
What does the Opposition propose to deal with the situation? Strengthen the N.P.C. without doing anything about, or perhaps worsening, the divisions of responsibility and accountability which bedevil the industry? Or perhaps sell the ports to private interests? I do not believe that any responsible body of informed opinion would find the Government's proposals without merit.
In yesterday's Lloyds List some interesting and important comments were made on this Bill. The National Association of Port Employers welcomes more central control—the sort of authoritative control that a body like the National Ports Authority would be in a position to give. The Opposition are being their usual doctrinaire selves. We are talking about one of the vital parts of the British economy and what they should be saying today is what they would do about it. The industry wants to know what their plans are. The Opposition talk about a political shuttlecock. The simpler answer to that is, "Come into the Government Lobby tonight". They are the ones that are immediately making this a political shuttlecock.
With all due respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, many people have spoken in the debate about important matters. It may well be an interesting constituency point, but it has nothing to do with the Bill at this stage.
Let us consider some of the comments of the outsiders. Lord Geddes, who was President of the Chamber of Shipping when the White Paper was published, referred to
the potential for good which the White Paper undoubtedly contains.
His successor as President of the Chamber saw sufficient flexibility to meet the points the shipping industry considered to be of real importance. Sir Andrew Crichton, Chairman of Overseas Containers Ltd., welcomed the decision that at long last there should be a National Ports Authority, and he said that one thing we could not afford to ignore was the dispersal of investment and effort as between ports.
The Times, which is not subtitled the Labour Gazette, called the White Paper
as workmanlike a document as could have been hoped for"—
[Laughter.] I do not see anything uproariously funny in a statement of that nature by The Times. We will go a bit
further. The Economist, which again is not known for telling people to vote for my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar, referred to a "rational reorganisation". Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett, who will not be unknown to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and who when sitting on these benches as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Transport was responsible for the Harbours Act, 1964, whilst criticising what he calls port rationalisation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ".]—wait for it—acknowledged in a speech last July that a mistake had been made in establishing a National Ports Council without adequate powers. He concluded that "executive powers" were needed, and added that he did not realise the amount of opposition the Council would meet from individual ports. Surely one cannot have a body with executive powers unless it takes executive responsibility, and that is what is intended in the Bill. Any organisation which does not provide for that is bound to founder.
The Government have made a genuine attempt to produce a workable scheme which will remove uncertainty and provide stability for the industry at all levels. People outside involved in the industry, even those who are friends of the party opposite, will be disappointed that they have not had any constructive proposals today from the Opposition. The Bill sets up a structure which could command general support and provide stability for the industry. But hon. Members opposite have done nothing but oppose it. There has been downright opposition, with the hon. Member for Worcester saying that they will vote against it. They have not come forward with any proposals of value.
The Bill proposes that the ports in which more than 5 million tons of cargo are loaded or unloaded in the year should be placed under the charge of the National Ports Authority. There have been some questions, particularly from the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) about this. This tonnage criterion marks a clear dividing line between the major ports and the smaller ones. The ports on the Forth handle some 7·3 million tons a year, but the next in importance is Blyth, which handles less than 3 million tons. The ports to be placed under the charge of the Authority initially have a total trade of 267 million tons a year compared with the total for all ports of 305 million tons. Moreover, by concentrating on these ports we give the new Authority a reasonable management task. It will be an exacting one and will enable it to concentrate its resources on the really large ports.
We do not believe that it should be done that way. We put 5 million tons as the criterion. We think that this is a realistic criterion.
The ports which will come under the aegis of the Authority are responsible for nearly nine-tenths of the trade handled.
That was explained by my hon. Friend, and it is explained in the Bill.
It has been suggested, on the one hand, that ports such as Felixstowe and Shoreham should have been included in the reorganisation from the outset, while, on the other hand, we have been criticised for including Milford Haven and the Medway. But the 5 million tons criterion was chosen by the Government after careful consideration of all the factors involved as being the appropriate criterion. No one would deny that Milford Haven is a fine natural deep-water harbour of considerable importance to our trade.
As the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry), in a supplementary Question on 9th December, rightly said:
… this is one of the great harbours of the world because of its deep water."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1969; Vol. 793, c. 220.]
It does not at present have the problems of handling of general cargo that we find in other ports, but it is a port which is
highly significant in terms of national port planning.
There is even less case for leaving out the Medway, whose limits of jurisdiction abut those of the Port of London Authority, and in whose area there is substantial scope for redevelopment. Smaller ports such as Felixstowe and Shoreham are indeed vigorous and go-ahead. However, they are not in the same class as ports handling more than 5 million tons of trade and the Government have decided that it is not necessary to include them in the initial reorganisation.
I apologise, Mr. Speaker.
During the debate some emphasis has been placed on the desirability of ports such as Milford Haven, the Medway, Bristol and Manchester having their own local ports boards. Under Clauses 2 and 3, it will be for the N.P.A. to make proposals, in its devolution schemes, on this matter in the first instance.
However, I gladly repeat the assurances that have been given on this issue. My right hon. Friend will bring the views expressed today, and previously, to the notice of the N.P.A. and he will have these views very much in mind in considering the devolution schemes which, in due course, will be submitted to him. I am certain that the N.P.A. will consult representative bodies like the Chamber of Shipping and the British Shippers Council in the course of working out its devolution schemes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) spoke about Scotland and asked if there was to be one ports board. He also raised the question of consultation with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales in connection with this matter. Clause 3 (1) (b) requires the N.P.A. to consider the desirability of having a single ports board for such ports as come within its jurisdiction in Scotland. The N.P.A. will deal with this matter in preparing its devolution schemes, which will come to the Minister for approval. At that stage my right hon. Friend will consult the Secretary of State for Scotland, as was indicated in the White Paper. He will also consult the Secretary of State for Wales about devolution schemes affecting Wales.
There is no need to provide for this consultation in the Bill because Ministers customarily consult with one another, and that will happen in this case. To make such provision in the Bill would throw doubt on the innumerable other cases where Ministers consult with one another, even though there is no statutory requirement for them to do so.
It seemed at one stage in the debate that a love affair was in progress between hon. Gentlemen opposite and Bristol. Hardly an hon. Member could speak without mentioning Bristol. We were honoured to have so much talent from the benches opposite telling us what a lovely place Bristol was.
Several hon. Members referred to the City Docks of Bristol. Only land held for harbour purposes will be vested in the N.P.A. If it is held partly for harbour purposes and partly for other purposes, regulations may provide for settling whether or not it should be vested in the N.P.A., with abritration in default of agreement.
Does that mean that the Government are giving a clear assurance that when the Bristol Private Bill becomes inacted, Bristol City Docks will be taken out of the Government's scheme of things and the City Docks will be a matter for the citizens of Bristol to redevelop as they see fit, with the result that they will be saved?
I cannot cover a hypothetical situation. [Laughter.] I am sure that at least my hon. Friends who have made constructive suggestions want to hear replies about them rather than about a hypothetical case in Bristol. If land vests in the N.P.A. and within 10 years of the vesting date the N.P.A. no longer requires it for its business, the N.P.A. must give Bristol Corporation first refusal, a right of pre-emption under Clause 28, and cannot dispose of it without doing that. The price to be paid by the council for the transfer back—
It is all very well for the hon. Member to keep interrupting, but if he wants to hear the answer about Bristol he would do much better to listen. The price to be paid by the council for the transfer back would be fair and reasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case and, again, in default of agreement the price will be determined by arbitration. As my right hon. Friend said, he is seeing the Association of Municipal Corporations next week and he will then discuss this matter.
The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) has raised a valid point. The Bristol City Docks, which were the original docks, are to be closed. They are doing practically no work in any case now. The council wants the area for civic development in the centre of the city, for road purposes and so on. In other words, the area will no longer be used as a dock.
We cannot pursue this matter of Bristol now. My right hon. Friend is seeing the Association of Municipal Corporations next week and it would be better if I did not say any more at this stage.
One of the points which might have been made by the Opposition is the success of the British Transport Docks Board. The Opposition have spoken in their usual language when talking about nationalisation or public ownership—their words are centralisation and bureaucratic management. They ought to look at the success story of the British Transport Docks Board.
The Board has proved that effective management can flourish in a nationalised ports set-up. The Board has been in existence for nearly seven years. It is one of the few bodies in the world which administers a group of ports. It administers 19 ports, but it does not attempt to operate them from its headquarters in London. Day-to-day operation is entrusted to local managers, who have authority to take decisions and who are judged by overall financial results. These ports have established a reputation for efficiency and service and have effective methods of cost control and budgeting and overall have achieved consistently good financial results. They have effec- tive machinery for staff consultation and training and education and they have set standards which are a model for the industry.
There are two features of the B.T.D.B. organisation which are of particular relevance to the Bill. The first is its local advisory boards for South Wales, Humber and Southampton which play a valuable part in advising the main Board in London on the points of view of port users and other local interests. There is a close though not direct parallel here to the proposed ports advisory committees. The second is in relation to competition between the ports.
The second is in relation to competition between their ports. The Board's practice is to encourage healthy competition. Charges are not standardised nationally and managers compete with each other in service and price. They must not cut charges or reduce revenue below cost to take traffic away from another of the Board's ports. In this and other respects, the Board's existing practices already reflect many of the objectives of the proposed National Ports Authority.
Some emphasis has been placed on the dangers of introducing a wider division of responsibility between ship and shore as a result of cargo handling services being run by a port authority. It is important to remember that there is not much uniformity in these matters. In most cases it will undoubtedly be more efficient for the ship and shore cargo handling work to be done by the same body, but it does not necessarily follow that the ship-owner must do the work. In the Port of Manchester the port authority already does all the cargo handling work. The system works well there and we know that it could work elsewhere.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) asked about the working of the dock labour scheme since decasualisation and suggested that it should be abolished. In a situation in which there is a multiplicity of employers, most of them private, and fluctuating work load requirements, the scheme offers protection against a possible reversion to casual employment.
The hon. Member for Tavistock said that this Bill would not get through because the Tories would win the next General Election. I have news for him, and it is all bad. That will not happen. [Interruption.] We know that there will be an election—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]. The opportunity of putting these proposals through will come not only do the industry and the country only during the lifetime of this Parliament, but will be proceeded with during the lifetime of the next Parliament, under a Labour Government.
The past five years have seen tremendous advances. Investment in the ports has increased dramatically since
|Division No. 41.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Diamond, Rt, Hn. John||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Albu, Austen||Dickens, James||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Doig, Peter||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Driberg, Tom||Hunter, Adam|
|Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n)||Dunn, James A.||Hynd, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dunnett, Jack||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Eadie, Alex||Jeger, George (Cook)|
|Bacon, Fit. Hn. Alice||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Barnett, Joel||English, Michael||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Baxter, William||Ennals, David||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Benn, Ri. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Ensor, David||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Binns, John||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Vardley)||Kelley, Richard|
|Bishop, 13. S.||Fernyhough, E.||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Fletcher, Rt.Hn. Sir Eric(Islington,E.)||Lawson, George|
|Booth, Albert||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Boston, Terence||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Foley, Maurice||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Boyden, James||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Bradley, Tom||Ford, Ben||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Forrester, John||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Freeson, Reginald||Loughlin, Charles|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Gardner, Tony||Luard Evan|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Buchan Norman||Golding, John||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (C'gow, Sp'burn)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Gregory, Arnold||McBride Neil|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||McCann, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||MacColl, James|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Baibara||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)|
|Chapman, Donald||Mackie, John|
|Coe, Denis||Harper, Joseph||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Coleman, Donald||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Haseldine, Norman||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hattersley, Roy||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hazell, Bert||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Cronin, John||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Heffer, Eric S.||Manuel, Archie|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hilton, W. S.||Marks, Kenneth|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hobden, Dennis||Marquand, David|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hooley, Frank||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)||Horner, John||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Davies, Rt Hn. Harold (Leek)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mcndelson, John|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Howie, W.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Delargy, H. J.||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Millan, Bruce|
|Dell, Edmund||Huckfield, Leslie||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Taverne, Dick|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Randan, Harry||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Molloy, William||Rankin, John||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Flees, Merlyn||Thornton, Ernest|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Tinn, James|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Richard, Ivor||Urwin, T. W.|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Moyle, Roland||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Murray, Albert||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Newens, Stan||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)||Wallace, George|
|Norwood, Christopher||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Oakcs, Gordon||Roebuck, Roy||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Ogden, Eric||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Weitzman, David|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Rose, Paul||Wellbeloved, James|
|Oram, Albert E.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Orbach, Maurice||Rowlands, E.||Whitaker, Ben|
|Orme, Stanley||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Oswald, Thomas||Sheldon, Robert||Whitlock, William|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Shinwcll, Rt. Hn. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Wil.cy, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Padley, Walter||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Short, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton,N.E.)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Paget, R. T.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles||Silverman, Julius||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Park, Trevor||Skefflngton, Arthur||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Slater, Joseph||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Small, William||Winnick, David|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Snow, Julian||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Sprlggs, Leslie||Woof, Robert|
|Pentland, Norman||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Mr. William Hamling and|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Mr. R. F. H. Dobson.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Costain, A. P.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Craddock, Sir Bercsford (Spelthorne)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Crouch, David||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Astor, John||Crowder, F. P.||Hastings, Stephen|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hawkins, Paul|
|Awdrey, Daniel||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hay, John|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||d'Avlgdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Dean, Paul||Heseltine, Michael|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Balniel, Lord||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hiley, Joseph|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Batsford, Brian||Donnelly, Desmond||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Drayson, G. B.||Hordern, Peter|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Eden, Sir John||Hornby, Richard|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Bessell, Peter||Emery, Peter||Hunt, John|
|Biffen, John||Errington, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Eyre, Reginald||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Farr, John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fisher, Nigel||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fortescue, Tim||Johnson Smith, G, (E. Grinstead)|
|Body, Richard||Foster, Sir John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'frord & Stone)||Jonee, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, nt. Hn. John||Fry, Peter||Jopling, Michael|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gibson-Watt, David||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Goodhart, Philip||Kirk, Peter|
|Bryan, Paul||Goodhew, Victor||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Cower, Raymond||Lambton, Viscount|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Grant, Anthony||Lane, David|
|Burden, F. A.||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Langford-Hott, Sir John|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lawier, Wallace|
|Carlisle, Mark||Grieve, Percy||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Channon, H. P. C.||Gurden, Harold||Lloyd, Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC,dficld)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Clegg, Walter||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Cooke, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Corfield, F. V.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Pink, R. Bonner||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Pounder, Rafton||Tapsell, Peter|
|Maddan, Martin||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Marten, Neil||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Maude, Angus||Priori J. M. L,||Temple, John M.|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Pym, Francis||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Mawby, Ray||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Muxweli-Hyslop, R. J.||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. s. L. C.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Mills, Stratum (Belfast, N.)||Rees-Davies, w. R.||Vlckers, Dame Joan|
|Miscamphell, Norman||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Waddington, David|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Ridsdale, Julian||Wall, Patrick|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Walters, Dennis|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Munro-Liicas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Murton, Oscar||Royle, Anthony||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Russell, Sir Ronald||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Neave, Airey||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Nicholts, Sir Harmar||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Scott, Nicholas||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nott, John||Scott-Hopkins, James||Winstaniey, Dr. M. P.|
|Onslow, Cranky||Sharpies, Richard||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Orr, Capt, L. P. S.||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Orr-Ewing Sir Ian||Silvester, Frederick||Worsley, Marcus|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sinclair, Sir George||Wright, Esmond|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mlngton)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Speed, Keith|
|Peel, John||Stainton, Keith||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Percival, Ian||Stoddart, Anthony||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Peyton, John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Pike, Misn Mervyn|