§ 8. Mr. Proctor
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on progress toward the establishment of free ports in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Proctor
I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful response. In view of the wide support for the concept of free ports, because of the amount of wealth and real jobs that they will generate, may I press my hon. Friend to say exactly when "shortly" will be?
§ Mr. McNamara
I hope that the port of Hull is one of the leading contenders, but even if the Minister cannot name them now, will he say whether there will be a reasonable geographical spread so that they are not all concentrated in the south-east?
§ Mr. Alexander
On what basis will the decisions finally be made? Will they be made on the basis of advice from civil servants, or on the basis of the bids and representations received? If it is the latter, will he accept a bid from me for Newark-on-Trent, which is already the subject of detailed feasibility studies into the establishment of an inland port on the Trent?
§ Mr. Foulkes
Will the Minister confirm that one of the criteria must be potential for the creation of new trade, investment and jobs, rather than more subsidies for existing businesses and operators? I shall not put in the obvious bid for Prestwick now.
§ Mr. Neil Hamilton
Does my hon. Friend agree that the economic benefits that will flow from the introduction of free ports are likely to be maximised only if the role of Customs and Excise is reduced to the minimum? Will he assure us that we will follow the lead of Hamburg, rather than of the Dutch free ports, so that the role of Customs and Excise is to police the perimeter and not check goods as they enter the free port?
§ Mr. Lambie
If the Government's timetable for the establishment of free ports is on schedule, can the hon. Gentleman tell us when the first free port will be designated? Does he agree that that is the important point? Is he aware that most hon. Members who are interested in the subject fear that the Government will never designate any free ports?
§ Mr. Moore
I am delighted by the passion for free enterprise among the Opposition. I am conscious of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made and which my hon. Friends the Members for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and for Banff and Buchan (Mr. McQuarrie) made last night. It would be wrong to give an answer before we know how many applications there are. There must also be a thorough examination of the applications. That is the only way in which to proceed so that we give all areas the opportunity to take part in this free enterprise experiment.