Yes, Sir. I intend to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to abolish the National Ports Council. This will place firmly on the ports industry the responsibility, through the British Ports Association, for improving the industry's efficiency and performance. I know that it welcomes this and I am satisfied with the arrangements it proposes to this end.
The legislation will also provide for the transfer to my Department of a few essential functions of the National Ports Council which cannot be taken over by the British Ports Association.
The major saving will be a saving to the industry which at the moment, finances the National Ports Council through the levy system. That is costing over £1 million a year. The proposal is supported overwhelmingly by the industry, including my hon. Friend's own port.
Is the Minister aware that this is one of the most retrograde steps taken by any Government? The answer to the problems of the ports is not to abolish the National Ports Council but to pursue a policy of co-ordinating the ports throughout the country and bringing them under public control.
With all our experience in this country of bringing industries under public control. I do not think that anyone in his right mind would go down that path. What is needed is for the ports industry to take greater responsibility over its own affairs. This is what our policy is about. It is, I believe, the way forward for the ports industry.
Why has the right hon. Gentleman appointed the existing chairman of the National Ports Council to take over the functions of the chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company on a part-time basis? He has now transferred, without fee, unlike Mr. MacGregor, the existing chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company to an already defunct organisation. Is this playing fair?
It is certainly playing fair. I believe that Sir Arthur Peterson, in his new role as chairman of the National Ports Council, has an important role to play in winding down the National Ports Council and looking after the interests of the staff. There is a further question on the Order Paper concerning Sir John Page.