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Free Ports

Volume 33: debated on Monday 6 December 1982

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asked the Minister for Trade if he will list the organisations he has consulted with a view to promoting free ports.

We have had useful discussions with hon. Members, local government authorities, airport managements and industrial organisations. Further consideration of this question will now take place under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). Both these and other interested parties will have an opportunity to present their views.

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful response. As free ports could create prosperity and jobs, will my hon. Friend and the working party consider setting up at least one free port at Aldergrove, Prestwick or Southend-on-Sea before the next general election?

We shall be going ahead with this inquiry as fast as seems reasonable. Within the scope of the inquiry we shall consider many places, including, no doubt, those mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Does the Minister agree that Great Britain has been slow to realise the potential of free ports? They are already successful in Ireland and Germany, and Belgium is now looking at the possibility. In view of the evidence given by the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, does the Minister agree that to put him in charge of any examination of the matter is to give it the kiss of death?

Not at all. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) will be as willing to listen to wisdom as any other member of the Government. I have no doubt that we shall benefit from the comments of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs when it reports soon.

Does my hon. Friend realise the huge advantages that Harwich would have as a free port? Unemployment there has in the past year and a half.

I am sure that Harwich will be one of the many places whose interests will be advanced by hon. Members on both sides of the House. We shall be delighted to consider each one.