The Government's white paper 'Modern Ports', published in November 2000, set out three key policy aims for the UK ports industry:
UKMPG endorses these aims, which have recently been restated in the draft National Policy Statement for ports published in autum 2009 by the previous Government. 95% of the country's international trade passes through our seaports, so an efficient port industry is a key component of UK competitiveness. If port costs are unnecessarily high, this will be reflected in the price of imported goods in our shops, and will hamper the efforts of our exporters. Although much port activity is governed by legislation imposed by the UK Government and, increasingly, the European Union, the day-to-day operation of the industry is free from Government involvement. With the exception of the small local authority sector, no ports are in public ownership and the industry receives almost no financial support from central, region or local government. All investment has to be financed, either from internal resources or from commercial borrowing, and such borrowing carries no Government guarantee, implied or otherwise.
UKMPG believes strongly that these arrangements have served the industry and the country well. The repeal of the Dock Labour Scheme in 1989, and the various privatisations over the past 20 years have resulted in an industry where competition has flourished and which is generally regarded as the most efficient in Europe. The draft national policy statement confirmed that the Government has no plans for any changes in the structure of the industry, and UKMPG trusts that assurance will be confirmed by the coalition Government when the national policy statement is reissued.
Although ports are a private sector industry, Government and European policy and legislation affect the industry in a surprisingly large number of different ways. The following are some examples: