Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
JAMIESON MP, MR
340. In containers only?
(Mr Burr) Yes. The industry is very complex. It is
not like passengers at airports. Every box has something different
in it. There seemed to be a consensus that there would be steady
growth. What was more difficult was to get an agreed handle on
when a port was full. There are people who will argue for a tighter
fit. The users want flexibility so they are not tied to very narrow
slots because they are weather dependent and so on. That debate
is still continuing.
341. Are you satisfied that there is a level
playing field in the way that environmental directives such as
the Habitats Directive or Birds Directive are implemented across
the European Union?
(Mr Jamieson) It is not unusual for directives to
be implemented in different ways in this country to other countries
in the European Union.
342. This is our evening for stating the obvious.
(Mr Jamieson) The great truth of the day has been
spoken. It will come as a total surprise to you to hear this.
There is a serious point here. Environmental issues are taken
very seriously in this country and quite properly so. There is
an increasing awareness of environmental issues and that is reflected
in the use of ports and estuaries. However, we do have some concerns
about this and we have asked English Nature to carry out a review
of the way the directives are being implemented in comparison
from here to other countries. We want to see if there are differentials.
Once we have done that, it will inform any further action we may
want to take.
343. We are not gold plated?
(Mr Jamieson) I do not think we are gold plated. We
do take environmental issues very seriously. If we did not, the
ports industry would be very exposed and would get itself an extremely
bad name. It is right we have to look to the directives and we
have to be guided by those, but we also have to be very much directed
and guided by public opinion in this country. Government has to
react and respond to that appropriately and that may be different.
We may have different priorities from other countries. Nevertheless,
it is a matter that we are aware of and we are looking into most
344. Do you think the right balance has been
struck between preserving the environment and allowing ports to
flourish, bearing in mind the cost of implementing some of these
(Mr Jamieson) That is a very fundamental, important
question. The inquiry process that we have is there to expose
the socio-economic needs of a new port development. It is there
to look very much at the environmental needs and the impact on
people in the area. That inquiry process in this country is independent
and separate from the government and the other players in it.
It thereby has to assess very carefully the differing demands.
This is one of those areas where we have to tread very carefully
to find a balance between very important environmental issuesand
they are important; we have a precious coastline that we must
protectand on the other hand, we have our economy and we
have the needs of the people and the businesses of this country
which we also must make sure develops as a 21st century country.
It is a delicate and balanced line. If you said to me, "Have
we got the balance about right?" I think we probably have,
but it is one of those balances that will shift with the way public
345. What role do you play and is there a rule
that you apply in the event of precisely that conflict of a port
seeking to expand, to develop its container capacity from short
sea shipping, and the environmental constraints?
(Mr Jamieson) The role we play is trying to find that
fine balance. You will know that in some of the cases not related
to portsthe example in Hastings of one of the road developments
therethe balance was towards the environmental issues and
we turned that down. Equally, with ports, we have to look very
carefully at that balance and make sometimes a judgment that does
not please one of the parties.
(Mr Burr) Another thing our stock-take identified
was that we need some more sophisticated guidance on this issue
for the people preparing projects, for the people who wanted to
contribute to the debate about them, for inspectors and for the
people who make the decisions. I know the Committee has noted
that we have published a consultation paper proposing a project
proposal framework on ports which aims, along the lines of the
later framework for road developments, to provide just that kind
(Mr Jamieson) That template does give an opportunity
for all the parties, both those proposing the particular scheme
and those people opposed to the scheme, to have a better handle
on the issues.
346. I am puzzled about this planning issue.
You just said to the Committee that the present system is working
well, as far as ports are concerned. Does that mean that you do
not see any of the ports counting as major infrastructure items
that Lord Falconer was talking about in wanting to change the
(Mr Jamieson) I did not say it was working well; I
said we had a planning system that examined the issues, but if
you are tempting me I will say that, yes, the planing system works
well. It is also very cumbersome. It can be very lengthy. The
length of an inquiry does not necessarily reflect the quality
of that inquiry. It may be that some of the very large projects
may fall into the category that you have mentioned.
347. If some of them were to fall into that
category, it is important that government ministers start off
by giving a clear steer, is it not, because what was required
was that the government minister would make a decision; Parliament
in some process would then approve or disapprove of what the minister
(Mr Jamieson) That is the thrust.
348. Are you developing a port strategy which
is going to say the requirements for the United Kingdom in the
next five years are to have one, two, two and a half major port
(Mr Jamieson) No. We feel that the way in which our
ports are developing currently, meeting the market demand, is
the proper way forward.
349. You would not be able to come to Parliament
and give a clear indication that something like Dibden Bay, for
instance, was part of government policy or not?
(Mr Burr) I do not think it would be necessary under
those procedures for the government necessarily to come forward
in such a statement and say, "We have picked these winners"
or these losers. We have a national policy statement in Modern
Ports. We could develop that statement as we understand the
business better, as we get a better handle on demand and so on.
It would be going a step further for a minister to sponsor or
350. That was what Lord Falconer was proposing
and you are saying to us that, as far as the ports are concerned,
it would not come into this category of major infrastructure projects.
(Mr Burr) The Chairman will rule me out for evasion
but the projects that we are talking about have missed those new
ideas because they are in the present system. Whether there might
be another case, when and if those procedures are in place, would
be a matter for discussion when that arose. It may be that the
promoter would have a view about whether he would wish his project
to be put through that kind of process or whether he would rather
the limitations of the present system.
351. I was trying to get a little bit of light
on the government's present port strategy and the government's
present policy for changing the planning system.
(Mr Burr) I am only competent on the first of those.
The policy is in the ports policy paper. The strategy does have
to recognise the way port projects are funded and the strategy
is that we will support sustainable projects for which there is
a clear need, but not so far to pick those cases before the merits
of the case have been explored.
352. Is the Competition Act working well as
far as ports are concerned?
(Mr Burr) We have not had any difficulty.
353. Does it not discourage different companies
cooperating together for joint operations?
(Mr Burr) We have no evidence that that is so, no.
354. When you were here before, we were told
that there were these two bodies for training and safety. They
have been united. Has that made a big difference?
(Mr Reeves) You rightly said there were two bodies
previously. The industry has developed an initiative to bring
the health and safety and the skills elements together under a
single trade organisation which is Port Skills and Safety. That
is something which we very much welcome.
355. Is there any evidence as to how it is working?
(Mr Jamieson) It is rather early days.
(Mr Burr) They have just about got as far as collecting
their first round of subscriptions and appointed some staff. There
is a much more overt commitment by senior management in the industry
than the predecessor bodies practically enjoyed.
356. Who is responsible for the Port Marine
(Mr Burr) I am.
357. Where is it up to? You were going to review
(Mr Burr) The ports were given until the end of last
year to report that they had implemented the systems that the
code advocates. The latest stock-take suggests that there is no
significant commercial undertaking still outstanding. There are
a few small ones some of which were rather late off the mark for
various reasons, but there is no significant port undertaking
that has not confirmed that they have implemented. Rather than
simply accept the letters from them, my branch is now conducting
a series of visits to up to a third of the ports who have reported
to establish what the quality of that implementation was. The
visits we have done so far have been very impressive.
358. As far as the statistics, you get monthly
returns for the serious accidents and fatalities. How are they
moving? Are they improving?
(Mr Burr) This is on dock safety now?
359. Yes. Port safety generally but particularly
(Mr Burr) The number of fatalities is so far a relief.
There has not been a fatality this year. Last year, very unfortunately,
we had seven fatalities.