Spanish Conservative Minister to Defend British Interests

Conservative Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins MEP, has persuaded the Spanish Minister of Transport, Senor Francisco Álvarez Cascos Fernéndez, to raise the concerns of British ports at the next Council of European Transport Ministers.

Sir Robert said: "When the Directive on Market Access to Port Services was debated in Parliament, I sought to exclude British ports from the potentially damaging implications, in the face of Socialist opposition and without the support of the British Government. My proposal was defeated by a coalition of Socialists, Liberals and Greens. So, through the good offices of a friendly Spanish Conservative MEP, I have asked the Spanish Minister to re-table my amendment at the next Ministerial meeting. He has agreed."

"It has come to a pretty pass when we cannot rely upon a British Labour Government to defend British maritime interests and to have to resort to a friendly - but foreign - government to do the job for us. But it also demonstrates that similarity of objectives can encourage co-operation and mutual assistance between MEPs and Ministers of different nationalities. That is what the EU should be all about."

ENDS

Note to editors: The proposed Directive on Market Access to Port Services COM(2001)0035 was introduced by the European Commission in February this year with the intention of liberalising the management of EU ports and ancillary services.

Since British ports were all privatised by the 1991 Ports Act (implemented in 1994/95), the terms of the Directive are not necessary in the UK, and the current ownership structure under which British ports function efficiently and profitably, can only be threatened by the proposals.

Sir Robert Atkins tabled amendments at both stages of the Parliament's first reading consideration of the proposals which sought to exclude privately-run UK ports from the effects of the Directive, but these were defeated by the Socialists, Liberals and the Greens.

The meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers will take place on December 6 and 7 in Brussels.

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