Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (560-579)

18 JUNE 2003  


  Q560  Chairman: Do you need primary legislation?

  Mr Reeves: No, not if the EC regulation is agreed and it is a priority for agreement under the Italian presidency.

  Q561  Chairman: It is a priority for the Italian presidency.

  Mr Reeves: Yes.

  Q562  Chairman: That is not a very concrete guarantee of anything, is it?

  Mr Reeves: I think there will be hell to pay if it is not agreed by the Transport Council in October, if not before.

  Q563  Chairman: If the Prime Minister of Italy manages to find time between his appearances in court. Do you think he will be able to?

  Mr Reeves: I cannot comment on the Italian Government. That is certainly beyond my remit.

  Q564  Chairman: Supposing agreement is not reached. Do you then have to bring forward primary legislation?

  Mr Reeves: I hope that will not be necessary.

  Q565  Chairman: I did not ask you what you hoped.

  Mr Reeves: There is an alternative route under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act and if that worst case were to come to pass, I imagine that emergency action would be taken to legislate separately.

  Q566  Chairman: The government gave some money to British Ports Industry Training to fund training. What is the position with respect to the new safety and training organisation?

  Mr Burr: The British Ports Industry Training organisation relied on government grants for its core funding. Sadly that was one of its weaknesses. As PSS explained to you just now, they are providing their own core funding from the membership, but they are still eligible and are still receiving project funding, for example for the development of additional occupational standards.

  Q567  Chairman: So you do in fact have an input in order to speed up the whole adoption of proper standards.

  Mr Burr: Yes. We have worked with them on the development of occupational standards, for example those in support of the Port Marine Safety Code, and they are working on one currently on the port controllers, the radar operators in ports. They received government funding to support the work on that standard.

  Q568  Chairman: You know the industry is very concerned about the Wild Bird and Habitats Directive, particularly in relation to the dredging of navigation channels. Are these excluded from the United Kingdom special areas of conservation in future or are they included?

  Mr Burr: We understand that concern entirely and in fact I think you wrote to the Secretary of State about it. Many of the estuaries in this country have already been designated, including the navigation channels. There is a particular issue, as it happens, with the channel in the centre of the Severn estuary. Partly following the concern you expressed, English Nature did a review of what the position was in other Member States and established—you will not be at all surprised—that it was inconsistent.

  Q569  Chairman: That was a constructive conclusion.

  Mr Burr: We took this evidence to the Commission, who were persuaded by it to issue guidance that navigation channels should be included and they are now on the backs of the Member States who have not included them to do something about this.

  Q570  Chairman: So it did not solve our problem, it just spread the damage around.

  Mr Burr: To the extent that it is a problem.

  Q571  Chairman: Come now Mr Burr. We have had this argument and we have given evidence from this Committee to the department on this. It is clear that the whole question of the dredging of navigation channels, which are actually as ancient as the Ancient Britons, is going to impact directly on the working of a port. What happens, if, for any reason, this is implemented and stops the work in the port?

  Mr Burr: The reason I made that comment is that because the channels are so long-established and are such a feature of the port, the maintenance of them, done in a sustainable way, is unlikely to cause further environmental impact.

  Q572  Chairman: With respect, that is an interpretation of something which you think will not happen. The reality is that they are only maintained because they are constantly dredged.

  Mr Burr: Yes.

  Q573  Chairman: Are you saying to us that you are quite satisfied in the department that that position is protected and that they will not be stopped because they are now included in the Wild Bird and Habitats Directive?

  Mr Burr: The ports industry has done a lot of work on more sustainable ways of doing dredging operations and if you were at Harwich Haven, for example, the way the dredging is done there actually has environmental benefits.

  Q574  Chairman: It has not had a great impact on the thinking of the Commission over the last 40 years, has it?

  Mr Burr: It is hard to comment.

  Q575  Chairman: Are you discussing this with DEFRA?

  Mr Burr: Yes.

  Q576  Chairman: Are you quite satisfied that you can come to a workable method of protecting entry into British ports?

  Mr Burr: Yes.

  Q577  Chairman: Are you quite satisfied about the Market Access to Port Services Directive?

  Mr Reeves: In what sense?

  Q578  Chairman: Do you believe that it does recognise the differences between the United Kingdom and continental ports?

  Mr Reeves: It does far more now than it did.

  Q579  Chairman: That is because it did not at all. Let us not bandy words.

  Mr Reeves: It goes a very long way to meeting concerns that UK ports had and indeed I have heard them say that while they still do not welcome it, they think it is something which is now workable.

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