I move the amendment which appears on the Order Paper:—
In page 3, Section 5 (1), to delete all words from the words "or an", line 38, to the end of the sub-section and substitute the following words "the harbour authority of the harbour to which such order or proposed order relates shall publish, at such time or times and in such manner as the Minister directs, a notice containing such particulars as the Minister directs of such order or proposed order, as the case may be.
Deputy Dockrell proposed a series of amendments on the Committee Stage of this Bill. The purpose of them was to remove from the Bill the discretion given to the Minister in respect to the holding of inquiries and the variation of harbour rates. Since the Committee Stage, I have had an opportunity of meeting the representatives of harbour boards and of shipping interests. Various suggestions in connection with the Bill were discussed. Two in particular were made. The first was to the effect that where it was proposed to make an Order varying the maximum or actual rates in respect to any harbour a local inquiry should be held, if the local harbour authority so requested. The second was the suggestion which is now embodied in the amendment before the House, that wherever it is proposed to make an Order varying harbour rates notice of the intention to make that Order should be given, and that any person interested should have the right to make representations. I decided to adopt the second of these suggestions, although at first sight it seems reasonable that, wherever a local harbour authority so requests, a local inquiry should be held, having regard to the fact that the local harbour authority itself will in any event have to pay the cost of the inquiry. It is the experience of the Department of Industry and Commerce, however, in relation to a number of the smaller harbour authorities throughout the country, that it is not very easy to get them to pay the expenses arising out of an inquiry of that kind, and that in any event it is preferable that there should be a discretion to the Minister whether a local inquiry should be held or not. As I explained on the Committee Stage, in the majority of cases, when an application is made for the variation of harbour rates, no objection is made and no representations to the contrary are received. In such cases it is obviously undesirable that a local inquiry should be held, whether at the request of the local harbour authority or not.
The amendment that I now propose to insert in the Bill will, I think, meet all the points that were raised by the various interested parties. It is designed to provide that where it is intended to make an order varying rates that notice must be given so that interested parties can make representations. Following on such representations, there will either be a departmental inquiry or a local inquiry. The Minister will make up his mind concerning the representations made when he receives the observations of the officers of his Department, or the report of the person appointed to conduct a local inquiry. I think the insertion of the amendment will meet all the representations that have been made in a manner that will ensure that the fears, which, of course, were mainly groundless, of harbour authorities will be finally removed.