UK ports safe after MEPs reject EU directive

Conservatives lead opposition to controversial draft law

STRASBOURG, 18 January 2006 -- The European Parliament today threw out controversial legislation aimed at liberalising port services.

UK Conservative MEPs – who had called for the package of measures to be binned – were hailing the decision as a significant victory for the fully privatised UK ports industry. The news has also been welcomed by the UK Major Ports Group, which had lobbied extensively against the proposed laws.

The European Commission claimed the Port Services Directive would create a more liberal market for providers of services to EU ports. But Conservatives argued that for British ports, the proposals would have threatened long-term investment, broken up established British businesses and resulted in declining standards of service.

Ironically, Socialist and left-wing MEPs supported a Conservative amendment to scrap the legislation, arguing instead that it was too liberal.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative member of the Transport Committee in the European Parliament said:

“The UK has escaped a wholly unwanted piece of legislation which would have taken our ports industry back to the 1970s.

“The Commission was promoting this legislation as a market-opening measure which would promote growth and competition, but the detail of the proposal did nothing of the sort.

“If the proposal had gone through the UK would have seen investment in ports decrease. Financing would not be forthcoming from banks. Established businesses would have been broken into smaller, less competitive entities providing fewer services to the consumer.

“The directive would have resulted in the destruction of years of hard work to make the UK’s ports the cheapest, best performing and most competitive in Europe.

“If the EU wants to see a market-orientated approach, it should follow what we already have in the UK: a tried and tested system.

“This piece of legislation should never have made it to Parliament. Not only were the proposals unacceptable but the Commission has broken with standard protocol. A similar report was rejected for the same reasons just two years ago only for the outgoing Commissioner to re-submit similar proposals weeks before leaving office. Whether it’s this directive or the ongoing debate about the European constitution, it seems eurocrats in Brussels seem unable to grasp the meaning of the word ‘no’.

“I hope the Commission will heed our opposition and drop these plans once and for all.”

Top ↑