Yesterday morning a group of MPs met in Committee Room 14 to discuss the EU’s plans to take control over all the main ports in the EU, establishing by direct EU regulation their right to determine how they are run and how they charge.
This is one of many such scrutiny committees that have met over the years as the EU has greatly expanded its legislative activities. Under Labour the Minister would recommend the EU measure to the committee, and the Labour majority would vote it through, usually with no Labour backbench speeches either in favour or querying any element.
The EU’s wish to regulate the 47 largest ports in the UK is opposed by the ports industry. Measures which may make sense for state owned or state subsidised ports in Mediteranean countries make no sense for free enterprise competitive ports with market prices and no subsidy in the UK. The Chairman of the European Select Committee was present though not a member of this scrutiny committee, as his Committee had recommended that this important new EU measure should be debated on the floor of the Commons. Bernard Jenkin and I were also present, though not voting members of the committee.
Mr Jenkin began the proceedings with a point of order. He argued that the latest draft of the EU proposal available to the committee was dated 23.5.2013. There have been various redrafts since then. There were also some other papers missing. He proposed that the committee be adjourned until the government had circulated all the relevant papers. I backed him up. The Minister, Mr Hayes saw the merit of our case and offered to move the adjournment of the committee so the right papers could be circulated and read. The three of us followed it up with speeches saying the whole matter should be taken on the floor of the House in good time before any decision was made in Brussels, with the latest text. The whole committee swung behind the idea of delay and the need for proper texts, and many also backed the proposal that the debate should be for the whole Commons given the importance of the power grab. We have already told the Minister that we think the whole regulation should be stopped as it is not needed.
The Minister I expect agrees with us that this Regulation is not needed and is not in our interest. The problem is, it can be pushed through by qualified majority against our wishes. I trust he will vote against it if the others want to push ahead with it this time It is yet another example of the growing legislative tentacles of the EU operating against the UK’s interests.