asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he expects the British Transport Docks Board to meet its 1981–82 external financing limit.
The British Transport Docks Board's external financing limit (EFL) for 1981–82 was set at £—5 million; that implies that the board should reduce its net borrowings by £5 million, as well as financing all its capital expenditure from internal resources. When the EFL was set in November 1980, it was hoped that the board would benefit from a substantial recovery in the volume of trade; but in the event this has not occurred. The board's finances in 1981–82 have also been severely affected by the series of industrial disputes at Southampton which occurred between March 1981 and January this year.In response, the board had made strenuous efforts to reduce its operating costs, and it has succeeded in reducing its total workforce by 11½ per cent. during 1981. This has involved high extraordinary costs in 1981–82 in the form of severance payments to the employees made redundant. The overall result is that the board does not now expect to meet its EFL for 1981–82; and its requirement for external finance may be over £10 million. Any excess over the board's existing EFL will be met from the unallocated margin of the Contingency Reserve.