§ 12. Mr. John Townend
Secretary of State for Transport what is his policy towards the future of Sealink.
§ Mr. Townend
I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that that reply will be appreciated by Conservative Members, many of whom would like to see Sealink sold lock, stock and barrel, as it is inefficient and overmanned. Is my hon. Friend aware that the head office staff of Sealink is approximately five times as large as the head office staff of European Ferries, which is no smaller than Sealink?
§ Mr. Eyre
The British Railways Board is in the lead with regard to privatisation. The Government await its proposals. The board has had to take account of the fact that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission decided that Sealink should not be transferred to European Ferries. Therefore, we know that the board is giving urgent consideration to further proposals in that respect.
§ Mr Snape
Having failed to peddle Sealink's assets to Townsend Thoresen, despite the blandishments of the hon. Member for Dorking (Mr. Wickenden), will the Minister 836 bear in mind and make it a condition of any future sale that a prospective buyer should not only pay British income tax but sail British-built ships?
§ Mr. Best
I welcome my hon. Friend to his new post. Is he aware that passenger traffic in Holyhead is at a standstill owing to the damaging dispute over the introduction of a B & I Line ship into the port of Holyhead? Will he keep a close watch on events? Is he further aware that the dispute could have a damaging effect on the long-term future of the port? If at any stage this becomes a matter of negotiation between the British and Irish Governments, will my hon. Friend ensure that everything possible is done to enable Holyhead to continue as a viable port?
§ Mr. Dobson
Does the Minister accept that if he goes ahead with the sale of Sealink he will be exporting jobs from the shipyards? Will he confirm that heither P & O nor European Ferries has bought a British vessel in the last decade?