HC Deb 12 December 1967 vol 756 cc205-6
Q6. Mr. Ian Lloyd

asked the Prime Minister what consultations he had with the Confederation of British Industry, the Shipper's Council, the Chamber of Shipping and other user interests, before making his statement on the nationalisation of ports.

The Prime Minister

There was no new statement of policy in what I said on this issue at the Port Industries Conference last month, Sir. The policy was announced in a White Paper (Cmnd. 3057) nearly seventeen months ago. As to consultation, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has been discussing details with those concerned since July.

Mr. Lloyd

Why is the Prime Minister apparently so unaware of the almost universal hostility to these proposals? If he claims otherwise, why does he treat with such obdurate indifference those upon whose co-operation and investment confidence the modernisation of our port system depends? Or is he absolutely determined to go down in the history books as the disc jockey of catastrophe?

The Prime Minister

I am not unaware—indeed, this is a result of my right hon. Friend's consultation—of the views of the industries concerned. It does not follow, however, that we have to be told by the industries concerned what the position is and what needs to hi done. Too many people in the port industry have been far too complacent for far too long about the state of the ports.

Mr. Kevin McNamara

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that there are many people engaged in the port industry who welcome this decision to nationalise the ports, and that if the users to which the Question refers had put in the necessary capital, had treated the men with a degree of humanity and had tried to get rid of some of the distrust and hostility that have existed over the last 100 years, the ports would be a much more efficient and happy place in which to work?

The Prime Minister

I would not be able to comment on all those points, though I have seen recent expressions of some of the matters referred to in the supplementary question on Merseyside during the period of that strike. As the House is voting very large sums for this overdue reorganisation and modernisation of the ports, I think that it is necessary to have a much more direct form of control over how. that money is spent.

Mr. Maudling

In the course of the consultations to which the Prime Minister referred, have any users welcomed nationalisation?

The Prime Minister

The particular users mentioned in the Question have not. As I have said, others have, particularly on the trade union side. As I have said, and as the right hon. Gentleman will know, there has been too much complacency in the ports and we need to modernise quickly. This is the right way to do it.

Mr. Ogden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the lessons of the last months is that there should be the utmost consultation between workers in the ports and the Government before legislation and that afterwards the intentions of the legislation should be fully reported to those employed in the ports?

The Prime Minister

Yes. These consultations are going on with that end in view. The conference where I made this particular speech was a very valuable operation in consultation between the employers, the users and the trade unions in the Merseyside area so far as dock modernisation is concerned.