HC Deb 20 June 1910 vol 18 cc10-2

asked whether the superintendent of the Newport Labour Exchange undertook to find men on the morning of the 14th instant to load the steamer "Indian Transport" in place of the members of the National Amalgamated Labourers' Union and the Dock, Wharf, Riverside, and General Labourers' Union, who had refused to abide by the award of the Board of Trade arbitrator defining the conditions of employment; that the Mayor of Newport, on the strength of this undertaking, refrained from giving an assurance to the owners of the vessel, although requested to do so, that the necessary protection would be afforded to the men whom they had employed to load the cargo; whether he is aware that only three men from the Labour Exchange presented themselves at the vessel, all of whom were quite unsuited for the purpose for which they were required, one being an old man who had done no work during the past two years; and whether he will issue instructions that in supplying men for employment through the Labour Exchanges some regard shall be had to their fitness for the work for which they are required?


The facts are not correctly stated in the question. On Monday, 13th June, the manager of the Newport Labour Exchange received an application for sixty men to load the steamship "Indian Transport," it being specified that the men would be engaged under the terms of the award made by the Board of Trade. No special qualifications in respect of these men were specified. Forty-four men applied at the Exchange for employment on Tuesday, 14th June, and of these twenty-eight local men, after being duly informed of the situation, were sent to the "Indian Transport" between the hours of 9 and 12.30. None of these men were engaged owing, as I understand, to the fact that the stevedores did not consider the number sufficient to make a start. It is the duty of Labour Exchange managers to endeavour to notify vacancies to suitable applicants, but obviously they cannot compel workmen to accept situations.


Is it not the fact that the original dispute arose out of the refusal of Messrs. Houlder Brothers to accept the agreement entered into by the employés with the Newport branch? Is it true, also, that at the present time a large number of police are occupied at Newport in playing cards and following other pursuits at the expense of the ratepayers, without any necessity for it whatever?


I would rather not go into the merits of the case in reply to a question. The matter is a very complicated one, and I would prefer not to go beyond the answer I have given. In regard to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question I am glad to know that the work is going on peacefully and without interference on the part of those connected with the dispute in reference to the loading of the "Indian Transport."


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the police protection provided by the local authorities in connection with the Newport dock strike is limited to the dock in which the "Indian Transport" and the Shipping Federation depot ship upon which the imported labourers are housed for safety are lying, and to the premises of Messrs. Houlder, Brothers, and Company's (Limited) Newport office; and whether he has advised the local authorities that protection should also be afforded to foremen tally clerks and others concerned in the loading of the vessel and Messrs. Houlder's business, not only while at work, but at their places of residence and while going to and from their work?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)

The points mentioned in the question— the "Indian Transport," the Shipping Federation's depot ship, and Messrs. Houlder's office—are the principal points protected by the police at Newport; but I am informed by the Mayor that police protection is given whenever the police have reason to believe it to be necessary to persons employed by Messrs. Houlder. The Mayor further reports that the police have had no information about the foremen mentioned in the question except a statement in the newspapers that they had been persuaded by unionists not to work with the imported labourers, and had returned to Bristol; and that they heard nothing of the alleged molestation of the tally clerks until after the occurrence, when summonses were taken out. The police are ready to protect anyone who requests assistance, but it is manifestly impossible to find an escort for every person who goes to or leaves the docks.


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will see or endeavour to induce the Mayor to see that in future he is acquainted with the cases which are likely to lead to assault and intimidation before they arise instead of after, as apparently has been the case?


I think the Mayor of Newport and the Watch Committee have been dealing with a situation of extreme delicacy and difficulty, and so far have dealt with it with great success.