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National Freight Corporation

Volume 929: debated on Wednesday 6 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plan he has for reorganising the National Freight Corporation; and whether he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for reorganising the National Freight Corporation; and whether he will make a statement.

The organisation of the National Freight Corporation is under consideration as part of the current review of transport policy.

Why has the right hon. Gentleman hitherto refused to publish the report by Cooper Brothers? Secondly, as the public have to pick up the bill for any losses that are made, will he assure the House that the future will be based solely on the commercial viability of the new organisation that is set up?

We have discussed the question of the Cooper Report on several occasions in the House. I have made it clear that I am very much in favour of the nationalised industries publishing as much information as possible for the convenience of the House, but commercial considerations must also be borne in mind. However, I believe that the NFC will in due course be able to make a substantial contribution to our industrial strategy, and I think that it ought to pay its way.

If this is a nationalised corporation, what possible public interest can arise from keeping the report secret?

I think that the hon. Gentleman expresses a somewhat naÏve view of the rôle of those publicly-owned industries that are in a highly competitive position. I was asked earlier this afternoon about the future public ownership of the road haulage industry. If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to that Question, he would have found an adequate answer to that which he asked just now, about why a report should be kept confidential.

Will the Secretary of State congratulate the Chairman of the NFC, Sir Daniel Pettit, on his new additional appointment as a director of Lloyds Bank? Does this imply an increase in the activities of Sir Daniel Pettit, or dare we hope that it implies a decrease in the activities of the NFC?

Sir Dan is a man of many parts. I am sure that the confidence that the private sector shows in him is a measure of the success that he brings to the NFC.

Is it the Secretary of State's intention to ask the House for extra finance to support the pension fund of the NFC, which is a burden at present? Is there any consideration of the need to find extra moneys?

I shall not be expressing a view on that matter today. It has been discussed in Committee. I know that it is of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House.