HC Deb 19 February 1924 vol 169 cc1537-9

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether any undertaking to abide by the finding of the Court of Inquiry has been given by, or sought, from, the parties concerned in the docks dispute?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. T. Shaw)

Having regard to the serious loss and inconvenience which would result, from a stoppage of works at the docks, I felt that it was necessary that the public should be fully informed as to the cause and circumstances of the dispute. I have, therefore, exercised my powers under the Industrial Courts Act to appoint a Court of Inquiry and, as the House will be aware, this action does not require the consent of the parties to the dispute. While I hope that the result of the further exploration of the matters in dispute will be to assist in its early settlement, the Court is not an arbitration tribunal, and no undertaking to abide by its conclusions has been sought from, or given by, the parties to the dispute.

Captain Viscount CURZON

How was it that the right hon. Gentleman did not take that action and act before the dispute broke out?


I gave, I think, a full explanation of the matter. Immediately the negotiations between the parties broke down, I got the parties together at the Ministry of Labour. I was successful in getting the negotiations going until the Saturday, when they broke down. Immediately the negotiations broke down I took the action that was necessary so that the public would know what that action was in a dispute of a national character.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the proceedings of this Court of Inquiry will be open to the public?


I hope so. It is my intention that they shall be.


In view of the proceedings taken by the Minister of Labour, will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to secure that these men go on working while that Court of Arbitration goes on?


Will the Court of Inquiry not only inquire into the matters which are in dispute between the two parties, but also into the provocative action of the employers at the beginning of the negotiations?


In view of the possibility of the court of inquiry not being able to do anything, not having any authority, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House of any further steps being taken by him in connection with this strike?


I hope, Mr. Speaker, that no provocative words will be used in this House in regard to either employers or workmen. The situation is difficult and delicate enough without any provocation on either side. I can assure hon. Members of the House that every step that roan be taken by the Ministry of Labour to bring the parties together in a friendly way to negotiate a settlement will be taken. I hope that in the near future it may be possible to bring the parties together, and so arrive at a settlement; but that, however, will be conditional on a change of front of one or other of the parties.