HC Deb 19 June 1968 vol 766 cc1099-100
39. and 40. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Minister of Transport (1) if it is still his intention that the ports will be taken into public ownership by 1970; and if he will make a statement;

(2) to what extent his plans for ports reorganisation include the taking into public ownership of privately-owned ports, stevedoring and lighterage companies.

42. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes to introduce legislation to take the ports into public ownership.

Mr. Marsh

I am not yet able to make a statement on this subject, but will do so as soon as possible.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Minister bear in mind the assurance given by his predecessor on 22nd February last year, that she hoped to take the ports into public ownership by 1970? Will he appreciate that any attempt to back-slide on an election pledge, freely given, will cause further dismay to Labour supporters throughout the country?

Mr. Marsh

The answer I have given is that I will make a statement on this subject as soon as possible. There is no reason for my hon. Friend to believe that people are back-sliding on election pledges.

Mr. Mitchell

Will the Minister give an assurance that a Bill to bring the ports into public ownership will be introduced in the next Session?

Mr. Marsh

As I have already said, I am not able to make a statement on this subject at present.

Sir G. Nabarro

As the Government have back-slid on every election promise, surely it will not matter at all if they abandon the nationalisation of the ports —it being manifestly in the public interest so to abandon it—or ask the Lords to throw it out, which would be better still.

Mr. Marsh

I do not know what is causing all this heat in the Chamber this afternoon. There is no proposal to withdraw from the decision, which the Government believed was a right one, that there is a need for an extension of public ownership in the British ports system.

Mr. Heffer

First would my right hon. Friend ignore the Buffoonery we have had from the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro)? Would he take into consideration the very serious nature of the Question of my hon. Friend? This is a pledge given to the electorate, it was in the election programme, and any back-sliding will certainly be resisted by the entire Labour movement. Is my right hon. Friend aware that we want to see nationalisation of the docks at the earliest possible moment, including the stevedoring companies as well?

Mr. Marsh

On the first point, one never does take any notice of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). As to the second point, all I have said is that in due course, as soon as I can, I shall make a statement on the whole issue.

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