Examination of Witnesses (Questions 369
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
369. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Can I welcome
you to the Committee. It would be very helpful if you would introduce
yourselves for the purposes of the record.
(Mr Carr) Thank you. My name is Colin Carr and I am
the Regional Industrial Organiser of the Transport and General
Workers' Union based in Liverpool but with specific responsibility
for the Docks and Waterways Trade Group. On my right is Peter
Landles who is a dock workers' Convenor at the Port of Felixstowe
and also the Vice Chair of the Transport and General Workers'
Union. On my left is Roger Sealey who is the transport sector
Researcher within the Transport and General Workers' Union.
370. Mr Carr, did you have anything you particularly
wanted to say first or can we go straight into questions?
(Mr Carr) We can get on with the questions given the
short space of time we have.
371. I am very grateful to you. What do you
think the role of major ports is in the economy of the United
(Mr Carr) We see the role of the ports as one of major
employers. I think in Mersyside, for instance, the Mersey Docks
and Harbour Company generates seven per cent of the workforce
and in Felixstowe I think it is something like nine per cent of
the workforce, and we recognise them as major employers within
their own particular areas.
372. Seven and nine per cent of what, Mr Carr?
(Mr Carr) Of the workforce in and around Mersyside
373. Is that registered males between a certain
age? How have you estimated your seven per cent of the workforce?
(Mr Carr) By adding the workforce which is involved
in the dock and its environs, not specifically the MDHC in Liverpool,
if I can use Liverpool as an example. If you look at the total
employment on the dock estate itself and its environs you could
say with reasonable accuracy that that generates seven per cent
of the employment within Mersyside.
374. Within the city?
(Mr Carr) Those are rough figures, there is no scientific
basis other than what I have said.
375. We might come to that in a minute. What
challenges do you think are offered by the role of the major ports
and what are the difficulties they are going to face?
(Mr Carr) We see their role as major employers but
also as economic parts within the dynamics of the economic generation
of the area that they serve. Also they have a wider economic dynamic
about them in terms of their overall slot into the transport system
and very often a major port, of course, would generate the inter-modal
systems of road and rail which would naturally lead to the port
in order to service the port in that way. As an economic entity
they are extremely important within the region that they serve.
376. So what challenges are they going to face?
(Mr Carr) The challenges are competition in the main
and in our view the challenges of becoming, what we would like
to see them as, modern, progressive employers.
377. Do they not compete at the moment with
(Mr Carr) Yes, very much so. The cargoes that they
attract in the main are generated by what the suppliers within
the area or suppliers within the country wish to see entering
and leaving the port. There are some aspects of courseagain
if I can use Liverpool as an examplewhere a lot of the
imports coming in now are coal and steel and that has been because
of the demise of the coal and steel industry within the country,
but the competition is still there. There are a lot of ship owners
who are very, very reluctant to enter into long-term arrangements
with ports and, indeed, with the modernisation of roll-on roll-off
cargoes or indeed what we call lo-lo, load-on load-off cargoes,
many ports now are able to operate in that way and so there is
a great deal of competition.
378. So you are saying for a port like Liverpool,
which is large and presumably once upon a time would have had
facilities that others do not have, that the advantage is not
there any more? Is that what you are saying?
(Mr Carr) With containerisation and the roll-on roll-off
379. Gentlemen, we all accept the importance
of ports within the UK. How successful has the privatisation of
United Kingdom ports been? What evidence is there that the ports
have experienced low levels of investment, less efficiency and
poor performance since being privatised? What evidence have we
(Mr Carr) The evidence is in the drastic reduction
in the labour force that came about from the abolition of the
scheme. We are equally critical about the dynamics of what happened
at that time and the cost to the taxpayer of course, but we also
see it as an indicator of what the ports went through and in our
view the cargo element did not rise. We viewed the cargo element
rising in the throughput to the port purely and simply due to
containerisation and the new concepts of inter-modal transport
rather than the privatisation of the ports.