HC Deb 10 March 1969 vol 779 cc955-7
14. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Transport what new capital investment per annum he envisages for the nationalised docks industry.

Mr. Marsh

On present information, the new investment at the ports listed in the recent White Paper seems likely to be in the range £50 million to £55 million for 1969 and 1970. Investment beyond that period will depend on consultations with the proposed National Ports Authority.

Mr. Ridley

I am grateful for those figures. Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, now that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that there will be no more borrowing by the Exchequer, this sum represents a straight addition on taxation? Would it not be more reasonable to postpone nationalisation of the docks for ever?

Mr. Marsh

Surely one has to put investment into the ports, whether they are nationalised or not. I appreciate that the Conservative Government spent very little on port investment but it is nevertheless something on which we have to spend money.

Mr. Body

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be no capital investment on soft terms at the expense of the taxpayers in nationalised ports, which will be to the detriment of the smaller ports—which can be equally efficient?

Mr. Marsh

The intention is to have an efficient port system, which presupposes a high level of investment, and one expects nationalised ports to be run efficiently and to pay their way.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is no need for the Government to be providing this investment and that Portbury could easily have been financed by the citizens of Bristol without Exchequer help?

Mr. Marsh

All I did was to use powers provided in the Docks and Harbours Act, of which the Opposition were in support at the time. There really is no difference between investment direct from the Exchequer and investment which comes from a local authority or a public trust. In both cases, it is public investment.

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