Oral Answers to Questions — Ports (Nationalisation)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th May 1975.

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Photo of Mr Alexander Fletcher Mr Alexander Fletcher , Edinburgh North 12:00 am, 7th May 1975

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the estimated cost of the Government's proposals to extend nationalisation of the ports industry.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

As the total cost will depend on the Government's firm proposals for legislation, it is too soon to say.

Photo of Mr Alexander Fletcher Mr Alexander Fletcher , Edinburgh North

Does the Secretary of State accept that we on the Opposition benches understand his reluctance to reveal the extent of this totally unnecessary expenditure? Will he say what provision has been made in the public expenditure estimates to cover the Government's policies in this respect? Does he appreciate that the final cost will be greatly increased by the extension of the dock labour scheme to non-scheme ports?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

I am not reluctant. The expenditure is not unnecessary. We shall be able to display the cost to the House when our consultations are completed and when we present our firm legislative proposals to the House.

Mr. Alan Lee Williams:

Has my right hon. Friend been able to assess the amount of subsidy that the continental ports are given through either their national Governments or their local authorities?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

I have no precise figures with me, but my hon. Friend is right in his implication that in many of those countries very large central or local government subsidies are paid to the ports.

Photo of Mr Marcus Fox Mr Marcus Fox , Shipley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there can be no justification for the extension of nationalisation on the grounds of the performance of the ports? The only outcome of this proposal is bound to be increased costs to the shipper, the customer and the taxpayer. If the Government proceed with this legislation it will be seen simply as a further sop to the trade unions against the national interest.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

I can accept none of the considerations put forward by the hon. Member. I believe that it is greatly in the interests of the national economy that we should have an organisation of the port industry which, unlike the present set up, makes it possible to take a strategic view of investment in that industry.