David Davis signs letter to David Cameron on new EU ports regulation


As published in The Grimsby Telegraph
Proposed EU rules will damage our local ports, say MPs; Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to stop new European regulations from ‘damaging’ the UK’s ports industry.

PLANS by Brussels to force Britain to appoint a ports regulator with the powers to intervene over prices for cargo handling and using infrastructure are being bitterly opposed by the industry and local MPs.

A cross-party group of 23 MPs has written to the Prime Minister David Cameron, pictured, urging him to stop the EU’s proposed Port Services Regulation.

They say it will remove the independence of Britain’s port operators to charge market rates for their services, threatening investment and jobs.

Among those to have signed the letter includes Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers, who fears the changes could have a “detrimental” effect on the ports of Immingham and Grimsby.

The Conservative MP told the Grimsby Telegraph: “My view is that this will be detrimental to our ports and that can only be bad news.

“Once again, unnecessary regulation will be introduced that, in this case, appears to be damaging to the free market rather than freeing it up.

“That is why I have written to the Prime Minister urging him to oppose its introduction.

“I also noted that ABP, which operate the ports in Grimsby and Immingham, has expressed concern about this.

“Obviously, anything that is damaging to their company can only be damaging to our local ports and, in turn, the local economy, which is why I believe this proposed regulation warrants further discussion.”

Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell is also opposed to the proposed regulation.

The Labour MP blasted the move as unnecessary “interference” from Europe.

Mr Mitchell claims that many of the ports on the Continent are subsidised by the local authority or Government, where as in the UK ports are privately run and financed.

“It has always been more expensive to land fish here, for example, than in Denmark, where the ports industry is heavily subsidised in a way that they cannot be in the UK,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Europe should be dealing with that issue and letting us compete on a level playing field rather than trying to introduce these kinds of changes.”

The proposals will involve new complex tendering procedures, stop individual commercial negotiations with shipping companies on the level of port charges and introduce new Commission-led charging principles – even if they are not commercially viable to individual ports.

The cross-party group that is fighting the proposed changes is led by John Denham, who is the Labour MP for Southampton – home of Britain’s fourth-biggest port. In the letter sent to Mr Cameron, the MPs claim “the EU is currently seeking to impose EU-wide Port Services Regulation, which will damage the UK ports industry”.

Dismissing the move as a “one-size-fits-all approach”, the MPs contrast the EU’s largely state-owned operators with their predominantly private UK counterparts “considered to be the most fiercely competitive in Europe”. The letter goes on to say: “The Commission’s proposed regulation will interfere with the commercial freedom of our ports and undermine their ability to attract investment in essential national infrastructure. As an island nation, our ports are essential for jobs, investment and economic growth. Some 95 per cent of the UK’s trade in goods moves by sea. Our major ports contribute £21 billion to GDP every year and support over 400,000 jobs.”

The letter has also been signed by Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis, who also fears the impact it could have on the region’s port.

The Conservative MP said: “The European Commission are currently seeking to impose an EU-wide Port Services Regulation which will damage the UK ports industry. “These proposals could lead to interference in the commercial freedom of our ports not to mention undermining their ability to attract investment, which is frankly key right now to the survival of ports in the region. “A one-size-fits-all approach to regulating our ports simply does not work as two earlier failed schemes has shown.

“I hope that the Prime Minister will take the concerns raised in our letter and ensure that these proposals are halted now before our national interest is jeopardised any further.”

Hull East MP Karl Turner is concerned about the impact it could have in investment for the region.

In particular, he is worried about the investment being made by Siemens in the city to build wind turbines, which could have a knock on impact for the renewables industry on the south bank. The Labour MP said: “I am very concerned that these proposals with interfere with the commercial freedoms of our ports and undermine investment from companies like Siemens.

“We are developing Hull’s ports and we hope that Greenport Hull will become the single biggest influence on Hull’s economy for generations.”

He added: “Our ports rely do relay heavily on the EU money and support, but on this policy I think the European Commission needs to think again.”