HC Deb 29 April 1918 vol 105 cc1281-2
42. Mr. P. A. HARRIS

asked the Minister of Labour whether a dispute between the Port of London Authority and their employés has taken place; whether he appointed an arbitrator to settle the matter; whether the Authority refused to be a party to the arbitration; whether he has now proclaimed the Port of London Authority; and whether, in the interests of the trade of London, he will state what effect this Proclamation will have?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. G. H. Roberts)

To clear away certain misconceptions, I should like to reply fully to the hon. Member's question. On 9th February the National Transport Workers Federation notified the Ministry of Labour that they had made a general claim for an advance of wages for all general cargo workers throughout the country, and they suggested a conference of the interested parties.

After some correspondence with the federation, the Chief Industrial Commissioner invited on 5th March the employers at the chief ports to an informal conference on the 8th March. The Port of London Authority did not accept the invitation, but the employers who came were of opinion that the Port of London should convene a meeting. This suggestion was conveyed to the Port Authority, who, however, did not see their way to call together such a meeting or to attend any conference on the subject.

The Ministry of Labour accordingly summoned a joint conference, at which all the parties present agreed to the settlement of the case by arbitration, and upon the terms of reference. The case was referred to the Committee on Production for arbitration, and the parties were notified. The Port of London Authority, however, expressed their intention of Ignoring the arbitration.

The Authority is not subject to the provisions of Part 1 of the Munitions of War Act, 1915, and it is thus not possible to compel their observance of the Court of Arbitration. I was advised, however, that the situation might prove serious if the claim of the men at this port were not heard with the others, and I accordingly approached my right hon. Friend the Minister of Munitions with a request that if he agreed he should advise His Majesty to issue a Proclamation making applicable to the apprehended dispute at the Port of London Part 1. of the Munitions of War Act, 1915, under which the Ministry of Labour now have power to refer for settlement any dispute to which the Act applies which exists or is apprehended between employers and employed.


If the Government have any more trouble with the Port of London Authority, will they consider the advisability of the Government taking over the management of the port, and so protect the interests of labour and trade during the War?


We will consider each emergency as it arises.


Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Board of Trade was consulted in these transactions?


Oh, yes, they have been.


Was the Board of Trade consulted by the right hon. Gentleman before making the arrangement for the Ministry of Munitions in regard to the Port of London?


No, the Board of Trade was not consulted.


Then I am not surprised at the result.