HC Deb 23 March 1955 vol 538 cc2074-6
60. Mr. Callaghan

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what reply he has made to the letter from the Chairman of the Institute of Shipping and Forwarding Agents calling for improved facilities at ports in order to overcome the delays to which ships and cargoes are subjected.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As my reply to this letter is rather long, I am sending the hon. Member a copy.

Mr. Callaghan

Has the Minister drawn the attention of the Institute of Shipping and Forwarding Agents to the facilities which are available in Cardiff and other ports in South Wales, where shippers will have no delay at all if they send their ships there?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Of course I have not ventured to discriminate between the many excellent ports available in this country.

Mr. K. Thompson

Will my right hon. Friend have another look at the question of the approaches to our docks in various parts of the country, as well as South Wales, to ensure that road traffic carrying goods to and from the docks is not hampered because of out-of-date routes and facilities in these areas?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have that in mind. As I said when announcing the road programme, I pay particular attention to the routes which are important to industry.

Mr. G. Jeger

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to publish his reply to the Institute in Hansard rather than forwarding a copy only to my hon. Friend?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If it is the wish of the House, and the authorities of the House have no objection, I shall be glad to do so.

Following is the letter:

22nd March, 1955.


Thank you for your open letter of 25th February about port development in this country. I am now replying on behalf of the President of the Board of Trade as well as myself. You urge that port development should be regarded as a national matter. The Government recognise that the efficient working of the ports and their continued development to meet the needs of importers and exporters are matters of national importance. The Board of Trade watch closely for any difficulties which may affect exporters, and my Department keeps in touch with the port authorities and with shipowners so that the Government may be aware of the situation in the ports.

I am always ready to assist, in so far as lies with the Government, in any action which may be necessary to relieve difficulties or to increase the capacity and efficiency of the ports. I must point out, however, that the responsibility for the efficient operation and development of ports in this country lies in the hands of the port authorities; and the Dock and Harbour Authorities' Association have made it clear that they do not ask that port development should be undertaken nationally; the matter to which you refer in the opening paragraph of your letter is related to a limited issue affecting development plans lodged by planning authorities under the Town and Country Planning Acts.

Port authorities have since the war done a great deal to expand and modernise dock facilities throughout the country, and, as the Dock and Harbour Authorities' Association have already pointed out in "The Times," the Port of London Authority has spent over £14 million since 1946 on engineering projects over and above its ordinary maintenance. I am satisfied the P.L.A. and the other dock authorities have well in mind the increasing demand for road transport facilities, and are planning their developments accordingly. I give full weight to the need for improving road access to docks in highway development.

I realise, as you point out in your letter, that many ports are under considerable pressure at the present time. Partly these are attributable to the accumulations of traffic following the labour dispute at the end of last year, and partly to the recent heavy volume of import and export traffic. The dock authorities of the country are faced with serious problems which, as you rightly say, can only be dealt with by the co-operation of all the interests concerned and by continued development in the ports. The Port Users Committees and the Port Operation panels—which were set up in the major ports—provide machinery through which these problems can be dealt with in each port.

Finally, I am ready to give any help I can to the port authorities and to other interests concerned in meeting their responsibilities.

Yours sincerely,

(Sgd.) John Boyd-Carpenter.