HC Deb 25 January 1995 vol 253 cc352-3
10. Mr. Dunnachie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to meet representatives of the Clyde port authority to discuss the dredging of the River Clyde.

Mr. Lang

Responsibility for flood prevention measures on non-agricultural land lies with regional authorities under the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961. Clyde Port Ltd. has no statutory duty to dredge the River Clyde but has a permissive power to dredge to the extent necessary for its operational needs.

Mr. Dunnachie

Will the Secretary of State cast his mind back to when his hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) piloted a Bill through the House, making the Clyde port authority a private firm and making three of its directors near-millionaires? It appears that the only thing that was dredged at that point in time was its accounts, not the River Clyde. Can the Secretary of State give me an assurance that, when he returns to the Back Benches, he will not become a director of that company?

Mr. Lang

The Bill under which the Clyde port authority was privatised was general, permissive legislation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that, under the present management, Clyde Port Ltd. has been reorganised and has grown considerably. It is now valued at £55 million and increased profits last year to £4 million.

Mr. Galbraith

Does the Secretary of State realise that my constituents are convinced that one reason for the recent flooding is the failure to dredge the lower Kelvin and the upper Clyde? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore fund a study of the contribution that the non-dredging of the Clyde made to the flooding and, if it is shown to be a contributory factor, fund the necessary restructuring work to prevent it happening again?

Mr. Lang

I have already made it clear that the Government are willing to consider all such studies that are put to them by the relevant regional authorities, and have already undertaken to contribute to the funding of the study by the Clyde river purification board. I imagine that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the River Kelvin once it enters Glasgow, falls some 30m to reach the Clyde, so it is unlikely that the Clyde itself can be the cause of flooding in Strathkelvin.

However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman today that, following my consideration of initial estimates now received from local authorities, I propose to increase Renfrew district's housing capital allocation for next year by £2 million and Strathkelvin district's by £500,000. I also propose to approve Glasgow district's bid for an extra £200,000 in the current year. I am sure that the House will welcome those announcements.

Mr. George Robertson

Is not the Secretary of State worried that the interest in Clyde Port Ltd. is not just in its dredging activities but in the gold digging of those who were lucky enough to be on the board at the time that it was privatised? Is not he aware of the widespread disgust and outrage felt throughout the country at the displays of corporate greed? Is not that a classic example of where an investment of as little as £75,000 in public assets has led, through the Government's fruit machine economics, to pay-outs of upwards of £5 million to directors?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman seems to be unaware that the company was marketed entirely openly and that the best bid secured it. That is the way in which industries have been privatised to the great benefit of the taxpayer, of those who in the past have had to fund loss-making organisations, and of those organisations themselves who have not been able to raise capital resources because they have been dependent on an external financing limit controlled by the Government. Surely the hon. Gentleman has learnt by now that national ownership has been the death and damage of many major British industries which are now released, liberated, productive and tax generating to the Exchequer as a result of privatisation.

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