22 JUL 2010

Ministers pressed on People's Port proposal

Ministers have said that they will now hold a review on Labour's plan to privatise our port and sell it to the French or whoever. Yet I am not happy to let the matter rest there. I want the people of Dover to be able to buy our port under the Government's Big Society policy.

There are two reasons. First, locally, it is clear Dovorians wish to own the port to secure its future. Second, nationally, because the Big Society policy must realise its potential if it is to be taken seriously. This policy - which is really about power to the people - offers a really big change. The policy needs to be taken seriously for the amazing change it can deliver. It is too important to let people compare it to the Citizen's Charter, the Cone Hotline and all that. The Prime Minister's vision has the power to really transform Britain.

Were our port to become the people's port, everyone would see how this policy has the power to make a radical change. People will see how serious it is. Traditional style big clunking Government, with a traditional unimaginative Treasury approach, would just flog our port off on the cheap. That's why I hope the Prime Minister can show, with Dover becoming a people's port, how the Big Society policy will make a big difference. This I set out to Ministers when I pressed them on the issue in the House of Commons. The exchange went like this (you can click on the direct link here):

4. Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): What plans he has for the future of the port of Dover; and if he will make a statement. [10277]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): Dover harbour board has submitted a transfer scheme to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. If-I reiterate if-that is approved, that will allow the board to privatise the port of Dover.

Charlie Elphicke: I thank the Minister for conducting this review. Will it consider the community's bid to buy the port of Dover and turn it into Dover's people's port? It is important that people know that the big society is not just about cycle paths, canal-side tow tracks and things like that-the big society is, well, big. It should include the port of Dover, and deprived communities should benefit as much as well-off communities.

Mike Penning: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his stalwart and continuing hard work on behalf of his constituents and his continued view on where Dover port should go. The consultation that I announced yesterday is part of the manifesto commitment to allow local people, businesses and the port to ensure that there is as much information as possible in the public domain, including the proposals on the people's port.

T5. [10298] Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): I see that the shipping Minister has been to Harwich and Felixstowe in the past week. I invite him to come and see the port of Dover, so that he can see at first hand how our plans can be the jewel in the crown of the big society and make Dover the jewel in the crown of the nation once again.

Mike Penning: That is a fantastic offer which, of course, I will accept.

I continue to press the case . . . to be continued! 



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Charlie Elphicke

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