HC Deb 23 January 1941 vol 368 cc319-20W
Mr. Wootton-Davies

asked the Minister of Transport whether the two new regional port directors will have power to enforce their decisions; and whether he will make any statement on the subject?

Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon

In reply to the first part of the Qeustion, the functions of the two regional port directors will be to co-ordinate the activities at the ports within their regions in order to secure—

  1. (i) the most rapid clearance through the ports of goods, whether inward bound or outward bound;
  2. (ii) the quickest turn round of ships; and
  3. (iii) the best utilisation of available transport facilities.

They will be responsible to me, through the Director of Ports, for achieving these ends. Their main instrument will be the exercise on my behalf of the powers I have reserved to myself of issuing instructions, general or particular, to port emergency committees as to the directions they give to the managers of any port for regulating facilitating and expediting the traffic at any port. I have appointed the regional port directors my agents for this purpose, in relation to all the committees in their regions. In issuing such instructions the regional port directors will act on their own discretion consistently with the functions outlined above. I have also informed the regional port directors that I wish them to take action on all matters affecting the functions entrusted to them which are capable of local or regional adjustment, after consultation as necessary with the local officers of the Departments concerned and with other interests which may be affected. The local officers of the various Departments have been informed that every effort must be made to comply with any instructions the regional port directors may issue; I have arranged with my colleagues that those officers may appeal to their own Headquarters on any instruction given to them, and that the appeal will be settled by me after reference, if necessary, to the Lord President of the Council, but that the decision shall not upset any action taken on the instruction in the meantime.

I have asked the regional port directors to refer to me, through the Director of Ports, for advice or assistance on matters which involve wide questions of policy. I have no wish to fetter their discretion by specifying the type of case which may arise, but I have requested that they will not without my approval take any action under their powers which but for my emergency legislation would be contrary to any statute or instrument having statutory effect. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the above statement and would remind him that a port is a place where a number of separate, and at times conflicting, interests converge. To secure the best use of the facilities available a high degree of local co-ordination is necessary, together with a power to determine priorities at short notice having regard to circumstances as they may arise. The appointments I have made are a further step in this direction.