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Port Of London Authority

Volume 959: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1978

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he next intends to meet the chairman of the Port of London Authority.

The Port of London Authority has made it clear that the Royal group should close and that there should be a reduction in the work force of 2,050. The Price Waterhouse report, which has been relied on by the Secretary of State—

Order. Is the hon. Member asking a question? It sounds like a statement.

I take your point, Mr. Speaker. Dealing with the number of lay-offs, Price Waterhouse recommended—

Is it correct, and is the Secretary of State aware, that according to the figures we have descended to the magnificent total of 1,489 by way of a reduction of the work force, with no closures? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this justifies the expenditure of £35 million of taxpayers' money?

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. The figure of 1,489 relates only to the period from May 1978 to June 1979. I am generally satisfied with the progress that we are making, and 1 think that there is a good prospect that in due course, despite the difficulties, we shall chart a path to viability.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of London's difficulties arise from the fact that London is competing with cross-Channel ports which are heavily subsidised? One of them receives as much as £60 million a year. Also, London has certain responsibilities for maintaining the Channel. Is it not time that we had some conformity of charges within the Common Market?

I take my hon. Friend's point, which he has made before. I agree that we should seek as far as we can to have a system that is fair to all. But the problems of London are more deep seated than that. They are part of the history of our industrial decline, and in that respect I think we must face them as being unique and peculiar to London.

Given that the Government propose to give £35 million to the Port of London, and £10 million extra in loans, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that Parliament will he asked to authorise any scheme that he puts forward and that for the debate he will make available all relevant information, including the Price Waterhouse report.