Businesses Liable to Vesting

Part of Clause 34 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock 12:00 am, 29th April 1970

Probably the Parliamentary Secretary went to the nub of the argument when he questioned the intention of those of my hon. Friends who supported the Amendment. That is precisely where the argument ought to be. The purpose and intention of my hon. Friends who have argued this matter has been simply to take the problems of transportation as it is in the docks and show that for these problems we should try to build a framework which makes sense in transportation terms.

My hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) and for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton) spoke of the through-container problem, the transport revolution and so on, but the Parliamentary Secretary made no reference to that at all. He has a plan which he is determined to impose. My hon. Friends, on the other hand, argue from an empirical standpoint on how the Amendment would fit in with what is happening in the transport world in this country and abroad.

I turn to the two exceptions which the Amendment would permit to remain outside the giant monopoly envisaged for the National Ports Authority. First, owners of trading vessels would be allowed to establish their own through-transport installations on the quay side or wherever it might be. All over the world one of the most successful forms of operating, as opposed to owning, a dock, is the leased berth system. It gives capital investment to the major stevedoring companies, it gives them stability, it encourages capital to flow into the docks and creates the right sort of employer-employee relationship and good management practices. This is what the best ports are doing, and this is one of the things which we should try to encourage in this country. It would not be possible to do it, if one wanted to involve the ship-owning community in this experiment as one would wish to do, if the N.P.A. were allowed to put itself between the ship and the movement of the freight when it came to inland depots and the customers.

It is therefore sensible to allow the through-transport concept which a shipowner might wish to advocate by claiming such an exemption. It would also immediately have the effect of imposing management discipline upon the through-transport concept. The ship-owner with the cargo which he is charged to carry is the one person one can be absolutely sure will be preoccupied with getting the cargo on and off the ship and to and from the customer as cheaply and efficiently as possible. This cannot be argued in favour of the National Ports Authority. It has a large number of other preoccupations. By removing this essential management discipline which the shipowner is ready to accept one removes one possible way to ensure that the docks in this country are operated at the maximum of efficiency.