Trust Ports

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons am 12:00 am ar 26 Tachwedd 1990.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of William Hague William Hague , Richmond (Yorks) 12:00, 26 Tachwedd 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress he has made in respect of his plans to allow trust ports to move into the private sector.

Photo of Mr Michael Irvine Mr Michael Irvine , Ipswich

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress he has made in respect of his plans to enable trust ports to be privatised.

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere

I believe that we should now build on the resounding success of the abolition of the dock labour scheme. To open up the ports industry further to market forces I want to see the main trust ports transfer into private ownership. I therefore intend to introduce a Bill in the current Session to allow trust ports to move into the private sector without the need to promote private legislation.

Photo of William Hague William Hague , Richmond (Yorks)

Will my right hon. Friend accept a strong welcome from Conservative Members for the enabling legislation that he is proposing? Will he join me in congratulating Tees and Hartlepool port authority on having been one of the first to put a Bill before the House, paving the way for others? Does he agree that the extension of private ownership to the trust ports represents a tremendous expansion of the business opportunities available to them?

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere

Yes, I do. The present constitution of the trusts ports inhibits their development. The sooner they have a proper structure and are in the private sector, the better they will be able to develop, expand, create jobs and aid industry.

Photo of Mr Michael Irvine Mr Michael Irvine , Ipswich

May I urge upon my right hon. Friend the importance of ensuring that when trust ports are privatised provision is made to allow dock workers and other port employees to obtain shares on favourable terms? That would do a great deal to make privatisation of the trust ports popular with those who work in them.

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere

The Bill will encourage trust ports to come forward with their own schemes for privatisation. We shall have to approve those schemes; an important part of any scheme will be giving dock workers an opportunity to own shares in the ports in which they work. That has been a tremendous success in the case of Associated British Ports and it will be in others.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

What will happen to the disgusting Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill, which has created a lot of trouble in the House and led to the introduction of this measure? The interesting question is: how far can we trust trusts if measures such as this are to be introduced? And what implications are there for the national health service?

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere

The only disgusting feature of that Bill was the mindless opposition to it by Opposition Members, including the hon. Gentleman. Even the hon. Gentleman's stretched imagination is roaming a bit far if it brings the health service into this question.

Photo of Mr John Ward Mr John Ward , Poole

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the port of Poole is a trust port in an area of great environmental beauty and sensitivity. Will he assure me that he will consult local authorities and other bodies before bringing in any element of compulsion in connection with privatisation that might put the environment at risk?

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere

There will be no change in the environmental regulations governing ports and there will be no relaxation of standards. An important part of any proposals will have to be the protection of those environmental concerns—but I shall take my hon. Friend's point into account.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Why did not the Secretary of State tell us anything about the Treasury? Are not the proposals really all about asset-stripping the land and taking the money into the Treasury? How much money does he intend to raise from that? How can he reconcile the proposal with the special responsibility that trust ports have towards the local community and, more importantly, to the local economy, with an integrated transport system?

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertsmere

I welcome the hon. Lady to the Opposition Front Bench and congratulate her on already setting a standard that her colleagues have never managed to attain. The measure is being promoted so that trust ports, which have very ancient constitutions and whose development is presently hampered, can get on with the business of being the modern ports that they are capable of being, now that we have got rid of the dock labour scheme. The Treasury share is incidental.