National Ports Council

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th June 1980.

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Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Liverpool, Garston 12:00 am, 25th June 1980

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on his consideration of the future of the National Ports Council.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

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.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Liverpool, Garston

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Will there be any saving to public funds from the abolition of the National Ports Council?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

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.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

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.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

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.

Photo of Mr James Dunn Mr James Dunn , Liverpool Kirkdale

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?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Minister of State (Department for Transport)

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.