Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



  60. Yet you do not have what you call reliable estimates of the numbers of workers employed by agencies and their accident record.
  (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 of them.

  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 to people.

  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 exactly—I would not want to be offensive—demonstration of dynamism and force, is it?
  (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 overall picture.
  (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 thing.

Mr Bennett

  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 quite honest.


  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 the indicators?
  (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 case—forgive me, I do not want to be rude—you imply that this is one of the things you are about to do. How many weeks before we talk about performance indicators?
  (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.

  76. Exactly.
  (Mr Reeves) Because port developments may include significant effects on the environment.

  77. Exactly.
  (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.

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