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Free Ports

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 22 November 2018

16. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of creating free ports in the UK. (907781)

The Government have been clear that they are open to ideas that deliver economic advantages in the UK. Section 100A of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 provides the legal basis for the designation of free zones by the Treasury and will continue to do so following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Applying for designation as a free zone will be a commercial decision to be taken by private port operators.

We are in uncharted waters as regards Brexit, and the danger is that Scottish exporters will not be able to access their European markets in the same way as they have done pre-Brexit. Does the Minister agree that this is the time to advantage ports such as Rosyth in my constituency and make sure that we have a strong ports sector in the future? Free ports would add into the benefits associated with doing that.

The cost and benefits of free port status will depend on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations, but we in the Department are preparing for all outcomes. The hon. Gentleman will know that I will continue to work as hard as I can to ensure that our ports sector is promoted, and continues to be efficient and as competitive as possible.