HC Deb 24 October 1983 vol 47 cc6-7
7. Mr. Allan Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has plans to safeguard the future of Liverpool docks.

Mr. David Mitchell

I was very glad that last month the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company was able to announce its first profit since 1978; the future of the port depends on whether those who work there can continue this success by maintaining and improving the service which they offer to their customers.

Mr. Roberts

Does the Minister accept that if Britain is to have free ports we must have one in Merseyside for the docks there to survive? This is especially true since the enterprise zone system is attracting industry from the docklands area. Will the Minister at least subsidise the docks to the extent that Hamburg subsidises its port by accepting responsibility for dredging and lighting and for the streets and highways?

Mr. Mitchell

I see no point in subsidising a port which is making a profit. Free ports are not the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

Mr. Hill

Should not the Government support the successful ports rather than poor business, because the successful ports are proving to be worth while in terms of imports and exports?

Mr. Mitchell

So long as my hon. Friend does not suggest that we provide financial support, I am with him. Since the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company is making a profit, the question of support does not arise.

Mr. Alton

Bearing in mind that the deep water container port at Seaforth is successful, will the Minister examine the proposal by the Liverpool university study group, supported by a number of Merseyside local authorities, for a barrage to be erected across the Mersey to provide further deep water facilities, a third estuarial crossing and much needed work for people in the construction industry?

Mr. Mitchell

I am prepared to consider any proposals by the hon. Gentleman if he cares to write to me.