Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
60. Yet you do not have what you call reliable
estimates of the numbers of workers employed by agencies and their
(Mr Reeves) No, that is true. I was going to go on
to say that we look to the ports industry to fully support its
training organisation. As to the statistics, this is an important
issue of course and to be perfectly frank with you, production
of Modern Ports and Focus on Ports with our statistical colleagues
has highlighted some weak areas; we were already aware of some
61. What are you going to do about it?
(Mr Reeves) We are going to address them. The areas
are: employment, health and safety, infrastructure, economic data,
transhipment at major ports and so on. What we are looking at
now is a discussion with the industry about ways in which we might
improve the coverage.
The Committee suspended from 4.42 p.m. to
4.52 p.m. for a division in the House.
62. What is the Government going to do to make
sure it has more reliable records of the numbers of workers employed
by agencies and their accident rates? Are they going to be published
once they have been garnered?
(Mr Wadsworth) We need to talk to the industry about
that and try to get better figures. There is a reasonable consensus
as to the level of direct employment in the industry. We have
reasonably good figures on that. The standard industrial classification
blurs that to a degree and the accident statistics still need
some interpretation. It is for the industry and HSE and ourselves
to get together to try to improve the quality of these statistics,
but there are several other statistical issues which also arise,
not just those on health and safety.
63. You also say that you do not have reliable
statistics about the economic impact of activities at ports. Does
this mean that the ports companies to whom you are saying you
are going to talk about health and safety are unwilling or unable
to gather the figures?
(Mr Wadsworth) In fairness, in some cases they have
never been asked to produce all these figures. They may be unwilling
as well when they are asked because of course it is an expense
64. What are you going to ask them to do?
(Mr Reeves) Some information is available through
their company annual reports but it is quite a task to pull all
this together. What we are going to do is talk to our statistics
colleagues about these issues you have mentioned and the plan
at the moment is to put out a paper to the industry and other
interests involved some time in the next few months to outline
the issues and discuss where we might go on them. We have highlighted
them, we are not pretending there is no problem. We do not have
the answers yet, but we are working on them.
65. It is all a tiny bit late, is it not?
(Mr Reeves) We have to try to do the job properly.
66. Forgive me but if I put out a report which
said this is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United Kingdom,
if I also then went on to say of course I did not have accurate
statistics, either about the accidents or the people employed
by agencies, over and above that I did not even have accurate
statistics about the economic effects of the work of the ports,
nevertheless I am thinking of asking the statistical people. How
they can collate statistics they have not got and which are not
available I am not clear. Then you say you think you might come
up with something in a few months. It is not exactlyI would
not want to be offensivedemonstration of dynamism and force,
(Mr Reeves) No, I take the criticism. If we have to
move more quickly we shall certainly see whether we can do that.
67. At the moment all you are doing is saying,
yes, it is the most dangerous, yes, we do not know exactly how
dangerous and we cannot prove it, but we shall however look at
that and talk to somebody about it.
(Mr Reeves) There is a broad understanding about the
(Mr Wadsworth) There were about 700 reported accidents
in the last year, 1999-2000, which if you gross it up is a rate
of about 2.9 per cent.
68. Given your Focus on Ports is so expensive,
what plans are there to make it rather more available? Are you
going to put it on the internet? It is not exactly the cheapest
thing you have ever put out, is it? It is very pretty.
(Mr Wadsworth) Thirty-two pounds.
(Mr Reeves) I am not certain whether that is on the
internet. It is not, I am advised.
69. So we know it is not on the internet. Do
you not have any plans to put it on the internet?
(Mr Reeves) We shall look at that. The Modern Ports
document is available on the web.
Chairman: This is presumably basic to the whole
70. CITES. How much do UK ports do to enforce
our duties under that international convention?
(Mr Reeves) I do not have the answer to that, to be
71. We are open to a little note on that, both
setting out what you are going to do about statistics and CITES.
(Mr Reeves) We shall certainly send you a note.
72. Could you give us two or three paragraphs
on what you have suggested to the statistical service? That might
be quite useful too. What aspects of the activities of the ports
do you intend to develop performance indicators for?
(Mr Wadsworth) There could be a range of aspects from
the statistics on aspects like ship turnround and container movements,
statistics on dwell times, statistics on environmental issues
and of course, as we have already mentioned, the safety issue
which is another aspect of performance effectively. There is potentially
quite a wide range of performance indicators. The task is first
of all in identifying which would be the most useful and informative
and secondly in agreeing with the industry the merits of collecting
this information and sharing it.
73. I accept that, but since you started the
draft outline of the ports policy in February 1999, which asked
for submissions and comments by April 1999, then the UK policy
was not finally published until November 2000 and now it seems
we are saying these are all the things we will possibly include
but we are not sure. Could you give me a timetable of when you
expect to come up with at least some indication of what sort of
indicators? What are the benefits of producing and publishing
(Mr Reeves) We were discussing that only the other
day. In a nutshell, we plan to issue a discussion document on
demand and capacity at the container ports some time in the next
few weeks and we shall also start work on developing the Key Performance
Indicators (KPI). It is something we have to talk to the industry
about but we had a preliminary discussion with them about it and
we need to develop a proposal and then take it forward with them.
74. I am beginning to sound as though I am nagging
you but three times today you have quoted the SRA as being the
responsible body which would help you plan the infrastructure
and the SRA has after 20 months only produced what it calls an
agenda of the things it wants to discuss. I have asked you now
about three different aspects and what I would have thought were
fairly basic statistics if you are going to produce a plan and
a strategy for the ports. In each caseforgive me, I do
not want to be rudeyou imply that this is one of the things
you are about to do. How many weeks before we talk about performance
(Mr Reeves) I do not think I said we were going to
produce a plan for the ports.
75. No, it was Her Majesty's Government who
made that mistake in the first place.
(Mr Reeves) What we want to do with KPIs is use the
development as information.
(Mr Reeves) Because port developments may include
significant effects on the environment.
(Mr Reeves) It is a major objective of our policy
to make the best use of existing infrastructure where possible.
78. Exactly. So how many weeks?
(Mr Reeves) We need to develop better information
about productivity at existing facilities and so on. These are
the sorts of reasons we need to develop KPIs.
79. I am in complete agreement.
(Mr Reeves) I should not like to put a figure on it.