Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 370)



  Q360  Joan Walley: Is that linked to the document you have just referred to?

  Dr Leggate: Yes, we do actually refer to the ports policy review in that document.

  Q361  Joan Walley: Is that your submission to us, or is that a separate document?

  Dr Leggate: No, this is a separate thing, but we have had discussions with the ports. We have members of our organisation are port operators, so we have had discussions with them and the port operators have fed into the ports policy review, but certainly the ports are a good example of the pitfalls in the planning process, things like the Dibden Bay saga, which went on for years and years and whilst we recognise that there needs to be a good planning process, there must be ways of trying to speed the process up and streamline it so that ports in the UK can compete with ports in Continental Europe.

  Q362  Joan Walley: Just before we come on to that, have you had any indication from the Department for Transport as to what its response to your representation is, the discussions you have had with officials?

  Dr Leggate: No.

  Q363  Joan Walley: You have got no idea what weight is going to be given to ports in the review?

  Dr Leggate: Well, it is a review on ports, so I am not quite sure what weight is going to be given to planning, although at a recent conference Dr Ladyman was actually giving the opening address and he did seem to indicate that planning was going to form part of the ports policy review.

  Q364  Joan Walley: From the talks you have had with officials, are you fairly confident from the overtures you have had with different departments as well as the Department for Transport, ODPM for example, Defra as well, that there is a sort of joined-up approach across Government?

  Dr Leggate: No, definitely not. This is a real problem for us. We have a fairly good dialogue with the Department for Transport, but any water freight strategy, or any freight strategy for that matter, cuts across a number of Government departments and this is not recognised at all. We do not have a great deal to do with Defra, although we need to because there are issues for Defra in any water freight strategy, and of course ODPM, and we have actually for certainly eighteen months to two years tried to get DfT to develop some sort of group for water freight which cuts across these Government departments so that water freight can actually be seen not just as transport but as something which affects the environment and something which affects the regions. We have had absolutely no success with that, no success at all.

  Q365  Joan Walley: Just to press you a little bit more on that, we heard earlier on what you were saying about your innovative ideas for the Olympics. Have you, for example, appraised the housing market renew areas and also the areas for the Government's sustainable communities strategy to see what the implications are there for economic and regeneration initiatives which could entail water side by side with the initiatives which are already underway?

  Dr Leggate: No, we have not really, because what we are primarily concerned with is freight on water, so we have not got involved with the regeneration programmes and that kind of thing.

  Q366  Joan Walley: So who is making those connections?

  Mr Lapthorn: That is a good question.

  Dr Leggate: I do not know. Actually, we are finding it hard to make any connections with anybody because of the fact that this committee which is supposedly making the decisions on the Olympics has not yet been formed, or has only just been formed. The problem from our point of view on water freight is the work which is needed on these locks and on these channels needs to be done now, because that is going to take some time, in order for the construction work to start in twelve to eighteen months. We are going to literally miss the boat because the work which is needed on the locks will not be completed in time and the construction work will have to start. So we fear it is too late, and certainly when I spoke to the Department for Transport about it they were very pessimistic about the whole thing because it was just all too late to do anything.

  Mr Lapthorn: The sad thing is that in that particular case it is not just a case of construction traffic, it is the clearing of the site and all those things beforehand and then the continuing transport of waste, et cetera, after the event. It is typically short-term thinking.

  Q367  Joan Walley: Just finally, you were calling on ODPM and DfT to identify sites with natural potential to be turned into interchanges where all of this could actually come together. How far down the road do you think you are—well, I think perhaps you have answered my question already, have you not? What will it take to get you round the table in order to look at this in a holistic way?

  Mr Lapthorn: It would take nothing to get us around the table. We would be there tomorrow. We would be there now. I think at the heart of it, I suspect, is a lack of knowledge. "There is a lorry. I know what it does, I know where it goes and I am in control of it. Ships, canal barges, whatever, I know nothing about so I won't even go there."

  Joan Walley: Thank you.

  Q368  Chairman: On your own industry's emissions, the Government's Climate Change Programme Review said that Britain is "playing an active role in reducing emissions from shipping". Can you tell us how that is happening?

  Dr Leggate: The active role I think comes more on an international level in shipping and air pollutant emissions from ships is covered by the Marine Pollution Convention of the International Maritime Organisation. Since then we have had a European Directive on marine fuel sulphur, which is limiting the sulphur content of fuel to 1.5% and it is likely to be stricter for the port areas and inland waterways, something like 0.2%. I must say, I am not aware of any initiatives in the UK to reduce that other than what has come down from European and IMO.

  Mr Lapthorn: The tendency is, not just in this area but across the board, to fulfil international and European obligations and because there is little or not influence over other flag[ged] coming into the UK because of the international nature of the business the sorts of ships and inland vessels where our majority interests lie already meet these requirements anyway and engine manufacturers and others are in a continuous process of improving, reducing emissions, in the normal course of events.

  Q369  Chairman: So the industry does not have any particular priorities in this respect?

  Mr Lapthorn: Not directly, no, other than achieving the international requirements, and when you are into international fuel oils, and so on, in the larger sizes it becomes more significant.

  Dr Leggate: Having said that, it is a very innovative industry and very hi-tech, and this is something else which does not come across. When ship building goes on, there are not two ships that are alike. There are always improvements in design and in engine sizes, so that kind of innovation is going on all the time.

  Q370  Chairman: I think we have covered most of the ground we expected to. Is there anything else you wanted to say? Have we missed any points?

  Dr Leggate: I do not think so, actually.

  Mr Lapthorn: Other than to say, if I may, go out and sell it.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for coming in. It is much appreciated.

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