11 OCTOBER 1975, Page 30

Private enterprise port

There is an efficient port in Britain (yes, there is) and its continued success and growth have been a source of embarrassment for the Government, and a thorn in the flesh of the unions and management at the disastrous state ports. Felixstowe is a private enterprise port with a board fiercely opposed to nationalisation, and with a record of consistent high productivity. It has also maintained good industrial relations and efficient organisation which have ensured continued working while the others were on strike.

It has been outside the Dock Labour Scheme though not without unions, and only recently appointed one of the senior trade union negotiators to the board. It has ensured that there is always a standard of comparison to judge the hationalised docks — on delays, manning, pilfering and strikes — consistently to Felixstowe's advantage. Not for much longer. The nationalised British Transport Docks Board is using our money — yours and mine — to buy Felixstowe for £5.25 million.

This valued the shares at £1.50 against the 87p they were before the bid, so it is hard for the board to turn the offer down, especially since despite its fine rapid growth rate, it has had some financial problems. But there must be some way to preserve a standard of comparison against the nineteen docks already controlled by the BTDB and keep a free enterprise success from the overmanned homogeneity of the nationalised sector.