MARKET ACCESS TO PORT SERVICES (13681/04)
Letter from Stephen Ladyman MP, Minister
of State for Transport, Department for Transport to the Chairman
In November 2005 I submitted a partial regulatory
impact assessment and updated you on progress with this directive.
I am now writing to report the results of the first reading vote
in the European Parliament and to provide some thoughts on the
next steps with this contentious dossier.
Following an inconclusive vote in the European
Parliament's Transport Committee on 22 November, MEPs remitted
the Commission's original unamended proposal for a decision in
the European Parliament (EP) Plenary. Whether intentionally or
not, the Committee voted to reject, as a whole, all of the individual
amendments they had painstakingly agreed. As a result the Parliament
was faced with voting on a text with which a number of significant
EP committees, many MEPs, Council and organised labour had serious
reservations. Consequently, against the backdrop of 6,000 protesting
dock workers the EP voted to reject this directive for the second
time in three years, this time by 532 to 120.
Notwithstanding rejection of this directive,
many MEPs have now demanded alternative legislation on transparency
and fair competition in ports.
Transport Commissioner Barrot has yet to announce
his next move, but there is a strong probability that he will
ask the College of Commissioners to agree to a formal withdrawal
of the directive. Immediately following the vote he made a statement
in which he asserted that the underlying motivation for the Directive
(the Lisbon agenda for economic reform) remained. He hinted that
he would now seek to "redraw" EC ports policy. This
would cover a broader field than the current Directive, bringing
in aspects such as port charges, state aids and integration into
the wider supply chain. This therefore points to a further consultation
exercise, possibly via a Green Paper, later this year.
From a UK viewpoint (as you will have gathered
from our regulatory impact assessment) the proposal clearly had
the potential to make a significantly adverse impact on the continuing
success of the UK ports sector. You will recall the Government
was concerned that proposals on port services should be realistic
and proportionate, recognising the diversity of the industry and
the competition that already exists, particularly between the
UK and other European Ports. This proposal simply did not achieve
these reasonable goals.
We will now discuss with the Commission how
they might take this forward and seek to steer them (and other
Member States) away from proposals which may potentially prejudice
the commercial functioning and future development of our competitive
ports sector here in the UK. The elements outlined by Barrot at
the European Parliament would be a useful starting point and we
already have strong indications from some Member States that they
wish to tread the same path in close collaboration with the UK.
I will, of course, continue to keep you informed
24 February 2006