asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the report on Preston Docks by the National Ports Council.
I have seen a copy of the National Ports Council's report to the Preston Borough Council about the port of Preston. It appears to make a number of useful suggestions which I hope that Preston Borough Council will consider carefully.
In view of the fact that the report contradicts the assessment on the viability of Preston Docks by the Preston Borough Council, which still wants to close the docks, what action is the Secretary of State prepared to take to keep this valuable national asset open?
As my hon. Friend knows, the port of Preston is and must remain the responsibility of the Preston Borough Council. I have no powers in this respect. I agree, however, that the report from the National Ports Council is significant and indicates that there could be advantage to the ratepayers of Preston if it was adopted. It is not for me to take an initiative at this stage, but I shall be interested to know whether the borough council feels able to adopt the proposal of the National Ports Council.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the survival of the docks at Preston is of consequence to people far removed from the Conservative-controlled council and that the economic welfare of the North-West generally is tied up with the docks? Will he take an initiative in this matter?
The interest in maintaining the port goes very wide, and this is a factor which the Preston Borough Council should take into account. But I must work within my statutory powers. The port is the responsibility of Preston Borough Council. I think that it would be wise to discover whether the council intends to take an intiative and act upon the advice which it appears to have been given.