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Ports Policy Review

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 19 July 2007

The Department for Transport is today issuing an interim report on the Ports Policy Review. This Review was launched last summer by my predecessor my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr Ladyman), with the publication of a discussion document, “Ports Policy — Your Views Invited. A summary of the responses to this consultation are available to view on the Department for Transport's website www.dft.gsi.gov.uk.

Also published alongside the discussion document were reports by the Department's consultants, MDS Transmodal, on freight demand forecasts for ports, and on container transhipment. The consultants have updated some aspects of these reports and their further report will also be made available on the Department's website.

Sir Rod Eddington's report, “Transport's role in sustaining the UK's productivity and competitiveness”, was published in December. We are studying Sir Rod's recommendations and will respond to them later in the year. Several of these bear closely on ports policy and especially on the need to co-ordinate it fully with policy on each of the surface transport modes connecting with ports.

Also relevant to ports policy are the consultations, one recently closed and the other still in progress, on the Government's Marine Bill White Paper, and on the White Paper “Planning for a Sustainable Future.

I want to ensure that ports policy reflects emerging conclusions from each of these strands of work. It will not therefore be possible to complete the Ports Policy Review until later this year.

We are, however, already in a position to set out conclusions on important aspects of the overall policy framework for the ports sector. The Interim Report issued today recognises that commercial ports are best placed to make decisions about where and when to invest in the port sector, and that we do not propose any substantive change to the regulatory and operating framework for ports.

But it is the Government's responsibility to create the conditions in which investment is encouraged, and yet sustainability is ensured. This report sets out policies to build on the ports industry's success, including by:

commissioning demand forecasts every five years to aid assessment of national need;

recommending the use of Master Plans by major ports to improve planning;

setting out broad guidelines on the safeguarding of port land;

the pursuit of further trust port modernisation; and

setting out our plans to enhance the port safety regime.

In parallel with the Interim Report, the Government are also making their formal Response to the Transport Committee's report of its inquiry into “The Ports Industry in England and Wales(HC61-1). I am grateful to the Committee for having expedited its inquiry so as to contribute to the Review. We have accepted a number of the Committee's recommendations, and even in those areas where we have not found ourselves able to do so, the evidence-gathering process has very usefully complemented the Department's own consultation