HC Deb 02 August 1976 vol 916 cc569-72W
Mr. Wm Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) when he will publish his proposals for the new Londonderry Harbour Authority; and under what legislation it will be brought into being;

(2) what will be the number of persons on the proposed Londonderry Harbour Authority;

(3) how the new Londonderry Harbour Authority will be financed; and if there will be any increase in public funds allocated to the harbour;

(4) how members of the new Londonderry Harbour Authority will be chosen; and how many will be from Londonderry City;

(5) from what bodies, namely, trades unions, political parties, chambers of trade and commerce, etc., in Londonderry he has received requests for the creation of a Londonderry Harbour Authority;

(6) what are the reasons for the creation of the new Londonderry Harbour Authority;

(7) what sections of the community will be represented on the new Londonderry Harbour Authority.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The proposed reconstitution, which would be implemented by the Northern Ireland Department of Commerce under section 1 of the Harbour Act (NI) 1970, has been the subject of consultation with the present commissioners and the Londonderry City Council.

I am considering the detailed proposals in the light of these discussions. The broad object is to replace the present 17-member body by a smaller one of eight to 10 members appointed by the Minister. They would be chosen to provide the best possible experience in modern port management, from persons with experience of the management of harbours, shipping and port usage and of industrial, commercial and financial matters. The city council and the trade unions would be represented. I would expect that the new body would reflect the community balance in Londonderry and that the great majority of members would be local people.

I am satisfied that there is a wide measure of support for the re-organisation of the harbour authority. This is borne out by representations from the city council. The trade union movement is clearly concerned to have representation on public bodies of this sort. However, the overriding reason for reconstitution is to bring the commission more into line with modern thinking on the appropriate organisation for a commercially-oriented port authority. The re-organisation of many major ports in Great Britain has already been carried out on this basis. There is no reflection on the present commissioners, who have served the port well.

The reconstitution will be concerned solely with the membership and should have no effect on the arrangements under which the harbour is financed.

Mr. Wm. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) why the Londonderry Harbour Commissioners received the smallest grant, namely, £60,000, of all the major Northern Ireland harbours;

(2) how the EEC grant of £60,000 to Londonderry Harbour for harbour development will be used in Londonderry.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The sum of £60,000 recently awarded to Londonderry Harbour Commissioners was part of an allocation from the European Regional Development Fund, which is being passed on to Northern Ireland harbour authorities to help them to reduce their capital capital indebtedness. Taking into account the nature of the Londonderry Commissioners loans, £60,000 should be sufficient to extinguish the commissioners' current debts.

Mr. Wm. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the sums involved in outstanding loans to Londonderry Harbour Commissioners what is the rate of interest; and whether the commissioners have defaulted on any payment.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The outstanding loans to the Londonderry Harbour Commissioners at 31st December 1975 were as follows:

Offence Maximum penalty on summary conviction Maximum penalty on indictment
Possessing, purchasing or acquiring firearms or ammunition without certificate. One year or £400 or both Three years or unlimited fine or both.
Possessing a prohibited weapon One year or £400 or both Five years or unlimited fine or both.
Possessing a firearm or ammunition with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property. Not applicable Life imprisonment.
Possessing a firearm while committing certain offences. Not applicable 14 years.
Possession of firearms or ammunition by convicted persons. One year or £400 or both Three years or unlimited fine or both.
Possessing a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances. Two years or £300 or both Five years or unlimited fine or both.

On 2nd July my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General told the House that the Government accepted that the time had come for an increase in certain of the penalties for firearms offences.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many prosecutions for the illegal ownership of firearms have taken place in the Province since 1st January 1976.

The Attorney-General

I have been asked to reply. From 1st January 1976 to 30th June 1976 the Director of Public Prosecutions issued directions to pro-prosecute 324 persons for unlawful possession of firearms under various sections of the Firearms Act (Northern Ireland) 1969.

(A) Consolidated Stock (loan stock issued by the Commissioners) 147,041
(B) Government Loans Fund 33,500
Total 180,541

The rate of interest on (A) is 3½ per cent. and on (B) varies between 4½ per cent. and 5⅞ per cent.

To the best of my knowledge, the commissioners have not defaulted on any payments.

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