§ `(1) There shall be established, within twelve months of this section coming into effect, a National Ports Council, which shall consist of representatives of Government, port authorities or where appropriate their successor companies, local authorities covering the areas in which ports are located, and workers in ports, and of individuals with relevant experience and expertise in the industry, according to a scheme of appointment to be approved by the Secretary of State.
§ (2) The Council shall be consulted on the exercise by the appropriate Minister of his powers under sections 5, 7 and 8 of this Act, and by the Secretary of State on the exercise of his powers under sections 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 22, 23, 26 and 27 of this Act.—[Ms. Walley.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
Madam Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 25, in clause 8, page 6, line 12, at end insert—`(6A) The Minister shall not confirm a scheme under subsection (6) above unless he is satisfied that suitable provision has been made by the scheme for the establishment and maintenance of an advisory committee representative of users of and interests in the harbour to be consulted by the985company and empowered to advise the company upon matters apertaining to the use and management of the company's harbour undertaking.'.No. 43, in clause 9, page 6, line 44, at end insert—'local authority, representative trade unions and conservation bodies.'.No. 44, in clause 11, page 8, line 25, leave out subsection (2) and insert—'(2) The Secretary of State shall—No. 69, in clause 19, page 15, line 43, at end insert—
- (i) give written reasons to the authority for rejecting the authority's scheme;
- (ii) consult the authority and local authorities concerned before proposing the scheme;
- (iii) allow a period of three months for modifications to be proposed to the scheme.'.'and users of that part of the Port to be designated as the Port of Tilbury'.
§ Ms. Walley
The important aspect of the new clause is that we feel that it is important that there should be a national ports council. The new clause provides thatrepresentatives of Government, port authorities … successor companies, local authorities … workers in ports, and … individuals with relevant experience and expertise in the industrywould all be included in such a council, which would be there to be consulted by the Secretary of State and the Minister when they were carrying out various duties imposed on them by this legislation.
Amendment No. 43 also applies to schemes initiated by the Secretary of State. In effect, it means that, when the Secretary of State gives any direction to a relevant port authority under this section, he or she would have to consult thelocal authority, representative trade unions and conservation bodiesas well as the authority. Our amendment allows for further modification of the compulsory powers contained in the legislation. Rather than the Secretary of State merely consulting the port authority concerned before preparing the scheme, we would require the authority to be sent written reasons for rejecting its scheme. We would also require full consultation, and a period of three months for modifications to be proposed.
I must express some anxiety that our amendment No. 40 has not been chosen for discussion, because that might have given us the opportunity to debate in more detail the issue of compulsion and the reserve powers that many ports are so concerned about. Judging by the comments that the Minister has just made, that will have to be an issue on Third Reading.
The House should realise that the new clause and the amendments tabled in our name get to the heart of the Bill. They set out our policies on ports, and we feel that it is important that the public should know where the Opposition stand on these issues. In case we have any further interventions similar to those at the beginning of this debate, I should add that those policies are clearly set out in our policy document.
The House should express some concern about the fact that we are told that we are dealing with a ports Bill, but, as those of us who have debated the so-called Bill in Committee realise, it is not a ports Bill but a Government con. It is all about making money for the Treasury—as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has already demonstrated to the House—so 986 that it can take the proceeds of selling off more national and local assets. I hasten to add that the Government do not even own those assets.
The Bill is presented by the Secretary of State for Transport, yet, as we have already clarified, one has to search the print of the legislation thoroughly to pinpoint anything to do with transport. In stark contrast, our policy gives top priority to the development of an integrated transport system, in which ports policy would dovetail into national and local infrastructure and whereby national and local planning decisions could be made in accordance with it. It is our intention to ensure that ports, docks and waterways policies are incorporated into that. Our proposal for a national ports council, which would advise on ports policy, is a key way to bringing that about.
By contrast, the Government have introduced free market conditions of competition, with the abolition of the National Ports Council and the removal of regulations governing port development. This legislation takes us one step further down the road of determining transport policy by market forces alone.
Our national ports advisory body, as well as advising on the development of a national ports policy, would seek to reintroduce ways in which a port could be involved in investment and would require a port operating licensing system. We feel that we cannot leave important decisions about investment in our transport infrastructure to be made on the basis of market forces, and in the secrecy of commercial confidentiality. That is what is presented to us in this Bill.
Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 are just as important. Here we are dealing with a part of the Bill that seeks to compulsorily privatise trust ports that do business above the £5 million line. The intention is to privatise those ports whether or not that is what they want. That type of compulsion cannot be justified in any way. The Minister has attempted to convince the House that this is an enabling measure. If it really is an enabling measure, why is the Minister intent on forcing privatisation through the House, whether the trust ports want it or not? If he has failed to convince them that voluntary privatisation is a good thing, he should at least include further safeguards, as our amendments seeks to do.
Anybody who knows anything about trust ports, or anybody who has visited a trust port, or any hon. Member who has a trust port in his constituency knows that, while there is some support among the, trust ports for enabling legislation, there is no support whatsoever for the compulsory element that is introduced in clause 9. Our amendments provide for consultation with the local authorities and for a means of giving real reasons after a period of three months. These are methods of modifying the compulsory elements of the Bill.
From discussions that I have had about Poole harbour, I understand that the Minister has said that he is giving very careful consideration to the question of compulsion, and has reiterated his view that this is an enabling measure. Will he tell us how he proposes to proceed? If this really is an enabling measure, he ought to be able to accept our amendments. Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 would provide for the inclusion of conservation bodies, as well as incorporating local authority and trade union representatives. In Committee, we heard that the trust ports had somehow managed to preserve the balance of interests of 987 all the organisations using them. Our amendments would ensure that, in the context of the compulsory aspect of privatisation, some regard had to be paid to those bodies.
By way of amendment No. 40, we could have sought to ensure that, on environmental and other grounds, certain trust ports would not be caught by the net of privatisation. That issue will now have to be dealt with on Third Reading. It is absolutely crucial that an authority whose scheme has been rejected he given written reasons. There should be proper consultation, not just with the port authority but with all local authorities, before a scheme is proposed. There should be a period for modifications to be proposed. In that regard, these are reasonable amendments.
I want to refer again to a point that was put to me very forcefully by representatives from Poole. The Minister has told them that this is an enabling measure, but it is not. I understand that there will shortly be a debate in Dorset—near Poole—and that many people will speak against privatisation. So far, however, it has not been possible—in Poole, of all places—to find one person to make the Government's case. If that is so, the Minister should at least see the virtue of these very reasonable amendments. They would provide for further consultation prior to compulsory privatisation. I commend them to the House.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
I should like to draw the attention of the House to amendment No. 25, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers). My hon. Friend tabled a number of amendments, the general purpose of which is to draw the attention of the House to the interests of the recreational users of harbours. He apologises sincerely for his absence tonight. He had a very long-standing engagement, and I am sure that hon. Members will understand his difficulty.
Perhaps I should declare an interest. First, I am a parliamentary adviser to the British Marine Industries Federation, which, in fact, has nothing to do with this amendment. Secondly, one of my more esoteric posts is Admiral of the House of Commons Yacht Club. We have a very close relationship with the Royal Yachting Association, which has been instrumental in requesting that the point of view of recreational users be taken into account. I accept that, in the trust ports concerned—with the possible exception of Poole—the interest of the recreational user is likely to be very modest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) will move amendments at a later stage. No doubt he will refer to this matter, so I will not dwell on it. At present, the recreational interests have a representative on the appropriate body, and in some cases the Royal Yachting Association actually nominates that person. Under this Bill, there is no provision for such interests to be giver any consideration at all.
I am sure that the Minister, having considered our amendments, appreciates that it would be unreasonable to expect the ordinary person who simply wants to use the local waters for recreational purposes to be subjected to the totally material, although perfectly legitimate, interests of the commercial management of a new trust port. There was an unfortunate time when one harbourmaster took the view that all pleasure boats should be excluded. For that purpose, fees and machinery that were unreasonable, 988 albeit within the law, were introduced. Happily, the matter has been resolved, but there is naturally concern that such a situation could arise again.
I realise that that is not the intention of this Bill, but I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that he will not forget the interests of the users of small boats. Their recreation provides massive employment, and many people at all levels derive much pleasure from it. The purpose of the amendment is simply to draw attention to this matter, and to ensure that the vast commercial machinery that is about to swing into operation will not result in the little local man being forgotten.
§ Mr. Wallace
These amendments give us another opportunity to explore the criteria that will underlie the Secretary of State's decision on which ports should be privatised. The Minister will recall that this matter was raised several times in Committee. At no time was he able to produce a list of criteria. At no time was he able to give the Committee any inkling as to the matters that would be taken into account—other than the threshold of £5 million, which is stated in the Bill.
But the amendments give us an opportunity to raise other matters too. Although the new clause does not refer specifically to port users, that point is covered by amendment No. 25, and will no doubt be referred to by those who have experience and expertise in the industry. That is important to port users.
Concern has been expressed that privatisation might mean that individual ports would fall into private hands and that that could result in the creation of a monopoly. If a shipping company that was a regular user of a port sought to become its owner, it could use its position to discriminate against other port users and further its own ends. It could exclude rather than promote competition, which is one of the objectives of the Bill. It could also lead to the concentration of an excessive number of ports in a limited number of hands. Associated British Ports may already be eyeing up some of the ports that may be privatised.
The Government ought to take account of the position of port users and of the fears that have been expressed about the threat to competition. How does the Minister intend to protect the interests of those who might be termed captive port users after privatisation? Has he managed to flesh out what he said in Committee—that he would look into the procedures to be followed when the proposed charges are thought to be unreasonably high? Objections can already be made under existing legislation, but in Committee the Minister said that he would re-examine the procedures. I hope that he will tell the House whether he has been able to do so and what he intends to do about them.
Privatisation could lead to takeovers and monopolies. The General Council of British Shipping says that an analogy could be drawn with the bus industry, where deregulation led to a spate of takeovers and mergers. Efforts were made to resist them, but the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's view was that, as takeovers and mergers had not taken place in a substantial part of the United Kingdom, it did not have the power to consider their possible consequences.
If it appears that a privatised port may be owned by a single large company, which would result in a monopoly and the restriction of competition, will either the Secretary of State for Transport or the Department of Trade and 989 Industry be able to refer the matter to the Director General of Fair Trading or the Monopolies and Mergers Commission? It is important that port users should have an answer to that question. The Government have not yet given them any assurances on how they intend to deal with potential monopolies. I therefore hope that the Minister will address their concerns.
§ Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)
I was disappointed not to be a member of the Committee that considered the Bill. Unfortunately, I was press-ganged on to a Standing Committee that considered the London Underground Bill. I should have loved to be a member of the Committee that considered this Bill; I take a great interest in ports, since my constituency contains Blyth port, which comes within the £5 million to £6 million bracket.
After the Bill was introduced, I met many people who said that they did not want Blyth port to be privatised. There was talk of a management buy-out, but that is another matter. The Minister has paid no attention to the amendments or to the pleas that have been made on behalf of the ports, and I do not think that we shall get very much out of him this evening.
Blyth port employs 2,000 people, but it is on the borderline when it comes to the £5 million or £6 million level. The Minister therefore ought to provide conciliation procedures for little ports before they are privatised. Larger ports may probably buy into little ports such as Blyth and Poole, strip them and take away all their facilities, such as their roll-on/roll-off vessels. That would result in the death of little ports such as Blyth and Poole. The jobs that they provide would die with them.
Blyth is unique in many senses. It has been run efficiently for many years. If, however, a successor company comes in after privatisation and takes away its facilities, its profitability will die. It costs £2 million each year just to dredge Blyth harbour. I have said before that I believe that Tees and Hartlepool port authority will want to buy Blyth and strip it of all its facilities. The port of Blyth owns a great deal of land, which would be sold off to the highest bidder—most probably to a development company that would build yuppie houses on the river banks. That would lead to the loss of 2,000 jobs. The port authority told me tonight that it will have to buy a new dredger; the old one is nearly kaput. A new dredger would cost about £1 million.
I beg the Minister to consult those port authorities that are on the borderline and give them the chance to run the harbours in the way they have always been run, rather than to rip them off. I ask him to let local people have a say in running Blyth harbour, which has created many jobs. Blyth has proved that. I hope that the Minister will consider ports such as Blyth, which are on the borderline and should not be privatised.
§ Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)
I support amendment No. 25. Especially in the Solent area, my experience has been that the main concern of yachtsmen is not whether there is an advisory committee. Most harbourmasters are mindful of the need to liaise with their local port users, whether commercial fishermen, yachtsmen or the shipping fraternity at large. Yachtsmen are concerned mainly about 990 the high cost of mooring fees, especially in marinas that have been purchased by a company that has established a monopoly.
I want to follow the point made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). I suspect that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell the House that those matters are not referable to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission because they do not come under the Fair Trading Act 1973. My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) tabled new clause 7, which was not selected for debate this evening, and I added my name to it. I was not surprised that it was not selected for debate, because it goes beyond the ambit of the Bill.
We have a difficulty. Although amendment No. 25 makes a fair and reasonable attempt to deal with the problem in which not only yachtmen, but the pleasure boat industry and the marine industry generally have found themselves, the need for it would be removed if the Office of Fair Trading could look at such matters.
The Bill has a fairly narrow purpose. I hope that, with his shipping hat on, my hon. Friend the Minister, who effectively deals with all matters aquatic, may yet be persuaded to encourage our hon. Friends at the Department of Trade and Industry to extend legislation into the sensitive area because of the concern that is felt.
I believe that I am correct in saying that, in putting that point of view to the House, I have the full backing of all yachting interests, and especially of the Royal Yachting Association, which has grown increasingly concerned about the monopoly in the ownership of marinas, especially along the south coast.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. McLoughlin
A number of points have been raised in the debate. I shall respond briefly to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) in saying that I understand that it is possible for the matters that he raised to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. However, they need to be referred by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, because they are part of his responsibility. I hope that that clarifies my hon. Friend's point.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
I hope that I have helped my hon. Friend in his search for clarification. My hon. Friend successfully helped the General Council of British Shipping, so he knows that there is a way in which a challenge can be made to harbour charges.
My answer also partly deals with the question raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). I said in Committee that I wanted to consider his worry. To progress further, we may need additional legislation and I shall consider that in the light of events. If the problem is serious and there is a necessity to ease the procedure, I may need to consider the matter in due course. We want to keep it under close attention.
I know that the hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell) was unable to be a member of the Committee, and that he followed the Committee proceedings with interest and concern. I hope that I can give him some reassurance. The Bill does not say that the port of Blyth must be privatised. The Bill is specific. If the Government intended that all ports with a turnover of more than 991 £5 million were to be privatised, the Bill would say that; it does not. The Bill gives the Secretary of Stale for Transport the right after two years to compel ports with a turnover of more than £5 million to come forward with a scheme, and he will do that after consulting the local port authority.
The hon. Member for Blyth Valley asked for consultation. I can assure him that a provision for consultation is included in the Bill and that consultation will happen. I do not expect him to say now that he welcomes the Bill, but I hope that I have allayed some of the fears that he rightly expressed on behalf of his harbour authority. That point is an important provision in the Bill. We should want discussions in great detail with all the harbour authorities that had not privatised their operations after two years on why they had not privatised them and whether privatisation might be the best course. I hope that with those words, I can give some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Prescott
Is not the Minister telling the House that the Government are one of the main beneficiaries of what they judge to be the best scheme for that port? All he is actually saying is that the Government will spend a little time consulting the authority but, if the Government do not agree with the scheme brought before them, as required, within those two years, they can impose their own system. They have the main advantage and incentive because they want the money. How can there be any independent assessment in a consultation procedure of that kind?
§ Mr. McLoughlin
Try as I may to convince the Opposition, I do not expect to do so at this late stage. That is not the sole intention of the Bill. It is not intended to be a money-raising Bill for the Treasury. If that were the case, there would be a 100 per cent. levy and a 100 per cent. clawback levy on any period thereafter.
I must admit that I cannot find any agreement with new clause 13. It would provide for the establishment within one year of enactment of a national ports council consisting of representatives of the Government, port authorities or their successor companies, local authorities, port workers and what I can only describe as miscellaneous experts. It seems to me that the Opposition would want every single body to have representation. Opposition Members were attacking my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon for supposedly setting up quangos, yet they seem to be tabling new clauses that would do exactly that. There is little that I want or need to say about the so-called national ports council. I do not think that my hon. Friends will find very much to commend it and I hope that, if the Opposition seek to press the new clause to a vote, it will be rejected.
Some people seek to establish organisations or bodies to get things done. The Opposition, by contrast, seek to establish them to get things delayed. That is exactly what new clause 13 would do. That is the way to pay twice over to go nowhere—once the cost of the delays and once the cost of the body that caused them. That may seem acceptable to the Opposition but it does not seem acceptable to me, and I strongly urge the rejection of what we believe to be a very unconstructive amendment.
I must also ask hon. Members to reject amendment No. 43, as they rightly did when it first appeared in Committee. I think that it is unnecessary. I recognise, of course, that 992 the bodies mentioned in the amendment may have views on the privatisation of the port. That is precisely why they will have an opportunity to make representations to the Secretary of State once the authority has submitted its scheme, quite apart from the fact that the Government have tabled amendments making the order confirming a scheme of this sort subject to affirmative resolution. That was one of the commitments that I gave in Committee and which was welcomed by the Opposition, the British Ports Federation and, generally, by the trust ports themselves.
Finally in this group, amendment No. 44, another old friend, covers much the same ground as amendment No. 43, except that it relates to the situation, which is likely to be rare, in which the Secretary of State is obliged to propose his own scheme of privatisation. This amendment adds relatively little to the provision in the subsection that it is designed to replace, and which provides for the Secretary of State to consult the port authority before preparing his own scheme. It is obvious that, in so doing, he would provide it with reasons why he was unable to accept its scheme and, if the authority was able to propose relevant modifications, the Secretary of State would clearly wish to consider those before starting the laborious task of preparing his own scheme. The amendment has little real purpose except to build in delay through requiring consultation with interests that will, in any event, be able to make representations to the Secretary of State once he has prepared the scheme.
It was interesting to hear what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) had to say about that policy, because she mentioned the Labour party candidate for Thurrock. On many occasions she has been very careful not to dissociate herself from the things that he says. I will quote from a recent article in Tideway when the hon. Lady went to Tilbury not so very long ago——
§ Mr. McLoughlin
Yes, of course I have been there. I have been on a number of port visits, and I know that the hon. Lady has tried to do the same during the Bill's progress. When I went there, the people I met were very keen to see privatisation and to take part in it.
§ Ms. Walley
The Minister says that the workers favour privatisation, but is he confusing that idea with their approval for an employee-management share ownership scheme? Those two things are not the same. A work force may be wholly in favour of such a scheme in the event of privatisation, but may not otherwise favour privatisation.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
I disagree entirely. Work forces may want a management-employee buy-out, and I wish them success, but they are keen on privatisation per se, too. They have seen the advantages that it has brought to many other ports, and also the benefits that have resulted from the abolition of the dock labour scheme. That has put Tilbury in the happy position of being able to compete effectively with ports in neighbouring areas.
The Labour candidate for Thurrock said:If, unhappily, the port is sold before the general election, the next Labour Government will introduce public control of Tilbury and other ports.That is the idea behind the new clause.
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)
Has my hon. Friend heard the story that, when the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) went round Tilbury, a senior docker——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. The new clause is about consultative machinery. I hope that we can return to discussing that subject.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
I have tried to show that the consultative machinery would be a way of delaying privatisation. The Opposition see it as a way of retaining control. I am sure that my hon. Friends will have no truck with it and will reject the new clause.
§ Mr. Prescott
The name of Mr. MacKinley has cropped up constantly throughout the debate. I do not wish to repeat the mistake of monitoring whether that person may be in the building, but he has probably spent more time here while we have been discussing the port than has the hon. Member whose constituency is involved. That is a matter of record.
The issue behind the amendments is the right of appeal. If one does not like the idea of a national ports council, one can dismiss it.
As for local or national representation, I thought that citizenship rights were the mode of the moment. The Tories insist left, right and centre on the individual's right to claim protection from excessive use of power by the state—or, as it would be in this case, the harbour authority. That is a proper argument, and through the amendments we suggest that there is a need for an independent body, which we have called the national ports council. Similar recommendations have emerged repeatedly from inquiries into the ports industry. Some have argued for a national ports authority, but we suggest a national ports council, because that was the last body that the Government abolished in the early stages of the development of their plans for the ports. We argued against that abolition, and the arguments that we used then are relevant to the present debate.
We have been talking about the problems of compulsion. Judgments have to be made, and there will be disagreements between the ports authorities—at present, those are the trust boards—and the Government. They may have different ideas of how the scheme should turn out, and it will be an area of dispute between them. We cannot rely on the Government to be independent in this matter. They are the main beneficiary of the scheme, so they have a vested interest in getting the best price. They cannot be the sort of independent body that one would wish to see in such circumstances. That was one of the reasons which led to a national ports council.
Different groups involved with a port may gain control of the port authority—for example, yachting interests in a marina or in the Merseyside port, where the users take control. Any user of the port has a vested interest in keeping the prices down and not spending a great deal of money to develop the port. There are many examples of that. Often, it is not in the interests of the port or the communities that depend on it to allow a single group to dominate. The amendment seeks to create the possibility of an appeal against a decision affecting a port.
Another possible dispute was mentioned in the debate. Charges are extremely controversial in a port. The fishing or yachting community may feel that the charges imposed exploit the position or are against their interest. They need 994 a means to appeal against them. The National Ports Council was the original body to which appeals could be made. Now the appeal has to be made directly to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has a vested interest in the disposal of the ports. That does not give me any confidence that the new body will be independent.
§ Mr. Barry Field
The hon. Gentleman has not done his homework. I was instrumental in persuading the General Council of British Shipping to take the first appeal to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State found in my favour. How could that not be an independent decision?
§ Mr. Prescott
Perhaps it has not dawned on the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State, in the name of the Government or in any case the Treasury, will take the proceeds of the sales. The Secretary of State clearly has an interest. In the matter to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the Secretary of State was clearly independent. He had no interest in it, whatever the final outcome. It was a dispute between two parties about charges. In the matters dealt with by the Bill, the Secretary of State will clearly have a vested interest in matters of controversy.
No one can be satisfied that a dispute about prices will be dealt with impartially. Prices at ports very much affect the asset value of a port, the estimated revenue and other matters that we have discussed. Without wishing to stray, a good example of that is that, if one has tough price controls, it is difficult to sell at a good price on the market. We saw that with gas and electricity. One has to create balances. The Secretary of State will make the judgments.
The National Ports Council would be relevant where there was an element of user-domination. There might be a dispute about proper representation on the port authority. There are hundreds of trust ports and the procedures that lead to the nomination of those who sit on the boards are medieval. It is impossible to change the procedures. Bridlington is not in my constituency, but I have had constant complaints that the people who use the port cannot get the majority interest on the board. Seats on the board are handed down from one person to another as in freemasonry. Those people then decide who shall have access to the port.
I remember a diving company complaining to me that it wanted to do salvage work off Bridlington but could not get access to the port. I had no interest whatever in the company. The port had made a judgment that it wanted yachts in the port because they were more in keeping with the port. But it was a commercial port with fishing, yachting, diving and other activities. Perhaps the harbour could not take all the ships and could not cope with the demand on it. A dispute arose. In such disputes there should be a body to which such disputes can be referred for a judgment to be made. That is a legitimate argument. Such a body could function at either the local or national level. There is an argument for it to operate at local level. However, a national body could link infrastructure investment between ports.
Ports are an important part of our investment and development. The Government can have a view. Both Labour and Tory Governments pursued the arguments about roads to the ports. Often, they built the roads to the ports and the shipowner decided to move to some other area, where roads had not been built to the port. The ports 995 with the roads did not have the traffic and the ports without roads demanded that we invest in road infrastructure again. That is a duplication of investment.
Ports are often played by the shipowners. The port of Bristol is a classic example. It demanded and required more and more investment in containerisation. Shipowners then did not offer the port contracts. Shipowners hake mobile assets and can play one port off against another. The result is that the facilities are duplicated. That is an expensive way of dealing with port development. There is a great deal of evidence of that.
In all other European countries there is some form of national ports council or authority. Whether the Government are on the left or the right, they see the need to ensure that the communities' interests are guarded in one way or another. The matter cannot simply be left to market forces. We have a similar argument about competition. The Minister said that we should be reassured that any monopolistic tendencies or uncompetitive practices would be referred by the Department of Trade and Industry to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. That is the case under the monopoly legislation at present.
I recall the case of the buses in either Portsmouth or Southampton, which the Department of Trade and Industry referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Association. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission considered whether the company, having purchased another company, could provide a service in the public interest, because that is at the heart of the monopoly legislation. The MMC found that it could, but the then Secretary of State ruled against the MMC because he wanted more competition. That issue involving transport was decided not by the Secretary of State for Transport but by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. That is not right. Transport issues should be judged by the Department of Transport and not by another Department.
The Minister talked about user representatives making recommendations. People who use the ports, whether they be fishermen or yachtsmen, have a right to representation. The Minister should remember that he, as Minister for Shipping, and Lord Sterling told us all what we should do about the shipping industry. No one else was involved apart from the Government and the industry, through Lord Sterling.
When the Minister made recommendations about the fishing industry. he thought it right to leave out the representatives of all the bodies that should have been involved, so I find his arguments today rather odd. There has been talk about the corporate state argument. That is a good example of it.
There are many good examples. To cite a further important one, when the Government did away with the National Ports Council in legislation, we made the point that if responsibility was passed over to port authorities they might not give the Government the independent information needed for an assessment of the productivity of ports. Governments should be able to make judgments about whether ports can reach certain levels of efficiency.
Through the National Ports Council, the Government could get confidential information to enable them to judge whether ports could do better. When the private ports came together in the British Ports Federation, they did not want to give the information to the Government because it was commercial. They do not want to give information to the community, and the Minister cannot get access to it.
996 Any advice that could be given to the Department of Transport would be welcome. If the Minister had had more advice on the dock labour scheme, he might have been more successful in dealing with the problem of compensation, when the Government had to pay £120 million instead of the £20 million that they had estimated. Good professional advice might have been useful to those dealing with the dismantling of the dock labour scheme.
For many reasons, it would be good to have a body to advise the Government. We think that there should be such a body and that people should have representation. It would be good for the user and it would certainly be good for the country. It would result in better decisions. Therefore, I hope that the House will accept the new clause.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
I do not think that we will come to a meeting of minds on the new clause. No doubt the House will reflect its view shortly.
I inadvertently omitted the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) when I was summing up earlier. His point about facilities for small boats and yachts is very important. I am sure that the trust ports consult users about various aspects of their operations. No doubt the successor companies will do the same. I think that it is right that the companies should be allowed to decide on their own means of consulting their customers and others with a legitimate interest in the ports. I understand the concern expressed by my hon. Friend on various occasions. Obviously, we shall want to keep a close eye on what goes on to see if there are problems such as my hon. Friend has referred to. If problems arise, we may have to address them by other means.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 166, Noes 210.999
|Division No. 121]||[9.23 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)||Clelland, David|
|Allen, Graham||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Anderson, Donald||Cohen, Harry|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Corbett, Robin|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Cousins, Jim|
|Ashton, Joe||Crowther, Stan|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Cryer, Bob|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Cummings, John|
|Barron, Kevin||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Battle, John||Dalyell, Tam|
|Beckett, Margaret||Darling, Alistair|
|Beith, A. J.||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Bell, Stuart||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Bellotti, David||Dixon, Don|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Eadie, Alexander|
|Benton, Joseph||Fatchett, Derek|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Faulds, Andrew|
|Blunkett, David||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bradley, Keith||Fisher, Mark|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Flannery, Martin|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Flynn, Paul|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Buckley, George J.||Foster, Derek|
|Caborn, Richard||Foulkes, George|
|Callaghan, Jim||Fraser, John|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Fyfe, Maria|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Galloway, George|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Canavan, Dennis||George, Bruce|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Gordon, Mildred|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Mullin, Chris|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Murphy, Paul|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Nellist, Dave|
|Grocott, Bruce||O'Brien, William|
|Hain, Peter||O'Hara, Edward|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Patchett, Terry|
|Haynes, Frank||Pendry, Tom|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Pike, Peter L.|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Henderson, Doug||Prescott, John|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Home Robertson, John||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Hood, Jimmy||Radice, Giles|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Randall, Stuart|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Reid, Dr John|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Richardson, Jo|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Robertson, George|
|Illsley, Eric||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)||Rogers, Allan|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Rooney, Terence|
|Lamond, James||Rowlands, Ted|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Ruddock, Joan|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Salmond, Alex|
|Lewis, Terry||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Livingstone, Ken||Sheerman, Barry|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Short, Clare|
|Loyden, Eddie||Skinner, Dennis|
|McAllion, John||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McCartney, Ian||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|McKelvey, William||Spearing, Nigel|
|McLeish, Henry||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|McMaster, Gordon||Steinberg, Gerry|
|McWilliam, John||Straw, Jack|
|Madden, Max||Turner, Dennis|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Vaz, Keith|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Wallace, James|
|Martlew, Eric||Walley, Joan|
|Maxton, John||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Meacher, Michael||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Meale, Alan||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Michael, Alun||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Wilson, Brian|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Winnick, David|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Worthington, Tony|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Mr. Thomas McAvoy and Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie.|
|Adley, Robert||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Alexander, Richard||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bowis, John|
|Amos, Alan||Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes|
|Arbuthnot, James||Brazier, Julian|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bright, Graham|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Ashby, David||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Burns, Simon|
|Baldry, Tony||Burt, Alistair|
|Batiste, Spencer||Butterfill, John|
|Bellingham, Henry||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Carrington, Matthew|
|Benyon, W.||Carttiss, Michael|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Chope, Christopher|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Clark, Rt Hon Sir William|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Colvin, Michael|
|Body, Sir Richard||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Cope, Rt Hon John|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cormack, Patrick|
|Boswell, Tim||Couchman, James|
|Bottomley, Peter||Cran, James|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard|
|Day, Stephen||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Devlin, Tim||McCrindle, Sir Robert|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Dover, Den||Maclean, David|
|Dunn, Bob||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Mans, Keith|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Maples, John|
|Evennett, David||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Fallon, Michael||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Favell, Tony||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Forman, Nigel||Mills, lain|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Franks, Cecil||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Freeman, Roger||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|French, Douglas||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fry, Peter||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Gale, Roger||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Norris, Steve|
|Gill, Christopher||Paice, James|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Patnick, Irvine|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Portillo, Michael|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Redwood, John|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Gregory, Conal||Riddick, Graham|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Grist, Ian||Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)|
|Ground, Patrick||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Hague, William||Rost, Peter|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Harris, David||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Hayes, Jerry||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Speller, Tony|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Squire, Robin|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Hill, James||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Hind, Kenneth||Stern, Michael|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Stevens, Lewis|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)|
|Irvine, Michael||Summerson, Hugo|
|Irving, Sir Charles||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Jack, Michael||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Jackson, Robert||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Thorne, Neil|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Tracey, Richard|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Trotter, Neville|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Key, Robert||Viggers, Peter|
|Kilfedder, James||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Walden, George|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Knapman, Roger||Waller, Gary|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Ward, John|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Watts, John|
|Knowles, Michael||Wells, Bowen|
|Knox, David||Whitney, Ray|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Wilkinson, John|
|Yeo, Tim||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Young, Sir George (Acton)||Mr. Timothy Wood and Mr. Sydney Chapman.|
|Younger, Rt Hon George|
§ Question accordingly negatived.