SEA BREEZES MAY 2010 • VOL 84 • NO. 773
As a General election in the UK looms, I noted a rather interesting statistic quoted by the Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers in a recent speech. She said that since Labour came to power there have been more Transport Ministers than miles of motorway added to the UK network.
Apparently only 25.7 miles of motorway have been built since 1977, but 26 Transport Ministers have passed through the door of the Department of Transport. This is before adding the seven Secretaries of State who at one time or the other have held the reins during Labour’s time in power. I make no party political point here as the Conservatives treated transport with equal disdain – 11 Secretaries of State in the 18 years between 1979-1997.
During my time in the Port and Shipping sectors, I was often frustrated by the lack of continuity in the corridors of government and its impact on transport policy in general, shipping in particular. Ministers are simply never granted the time to fully get to grips with and fully understand their ‘brief’.
Furthermore, despite maritime power being one of the key historical reasons for the UK’s prominent place in world affairs, the government no longer treats matters maritime with the importance they deserve. The current Secretary of State for transport, Lord Adonis, seems to be well respected, but his main fixation is with the railways. From a visit to the Department of Transports’s website it would seem that shipping comes under the wider heading of ‘international networks’ and sits under the remit of Paul Clark MP, one of the Department’s junior (and lower profile) ministers.
Is it too much to hope that the next Government elevates the role of Transport Secretary to a far more prominent and influential position. Given transport’s vital role in so many aspects of our day-to-day life and its influence on the environmental agenda, this would be a position it merits. We can but hope.
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Captain Hamish A C Ross (Editor)