Mersey Docks and Harbour Board

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1970.

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Photo of Mr James Dunn Mr James Dunn , Liverpool Kirkdale 12:00 am, 1st December 1970

Perhaps I might follow the line adopted by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in that I would like to see co-operation and good will in the port, quite apart from any other move which may help resolve the present crisis.

Before any solution is possible, those who will be called upon to co-operate must know all the facts. At present, those facts are not readily available to either side of this House, with the exception of the Minister. Judging from some of the recommendations which have been put to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and announced to the House yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman, it is clear that the report of the independent consultants directed that certain actions should be taken. However, that report is available only to members of the board and the Minister.

Clearly the report contains some important facts. I was not interrupting the Minister on a party point when I asked him whether he was aware of the anxiety about the method of disclosure of the board's financial crisis. He may be unaware of it, but the first suggestion that there might be a crisis appeared in the local Press at the beginning of June, though the extent of it was still very uncertain. Following that, there came more positive information when it was announced that the Minister would be consulted about some of the problems. A decision was taken on 18th June. However, between the beginning of June and that decision, there were 18 days.

The previous Government were unaware of the exact cause or, indeed, of the crisis itself, and the incoming Minister was unaware of it until the end of July. Even then, you were not certain. You received a deputation from Merseyside, and points of view were put to you. You very kindly indicated your concern and full co-operation with everyone involved. Since that meeting and the receipt of the report of the independent consultants, much has been revealed to you that was unknown to you previously—