HC Deb 30 July 1924 vol 176 cc2071-3

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Constitution of the Port of London Authority. This Bill is one which has been considered for some time by the local authorities in the East End of London and by the trade unions representing labour. I do not wish in any sense to criticise the Port of London Authority, but it has been described on more than one occasion as a Capitalist Soviet. So far as the majority of its members are concerned, 17 of them are elected by the representatives of the wharfingers and others interested purely from the capitalist point of view in the trade of the port. So far as the local authorities, who have a tremendous interest in the port, are concerned, there are two representatives of the City Corporation and four representatives of the London County Council, two of whom have to be members outside the Council, and, by a convention, one is reserved for the representation of labour. There is also another member appointed by the Government Department who represents labour. It has been pointed out for some considerable time that public feeling in this country has been moving towards the idea that labour should no longer be regarded merely as a commodity. The time is coming when labour ought to be taken into real and actual partnership in regard to the administration of industry, and, when we have a public utility of this kind, it is surely time that we ought to try a real experiment in regard to partnership so far as the workmen are concerned. The dock and transport workers form a very important part of the labour of London, and we want them to be able, through their representatives on the authority which is concerned not only with the administration of their labour but of the trade of the whole of the Port of London, to give their views, their opinions, their advice and their knowledge. Therefore, in this Bill, we are proposing that, the trade unionists in the industry should be able to elect nine members on the Port Authority to represent them.

I turn then to the question of the local authorities. So far at. we in the East End of London are concerned, the boroughs of West Ham, Poplar and Stepney, one of the great problems with which our boards of guardians are faced over and over again is the great demand for Poor Law relief due to the fact that there is so much casual labour employed by the Port of London Authority. Yet, when the question of assessment comes round, the Port of London Authority comes along, despite the fact that this casual labour causes an increase in the amount of relief that has to be given, arid consequently an increase in our local rates, and demands a decrease in its, assessment on account of the increase in the rate for which it is responsible. We consider that the local authorities ought to be represented on the Authority. We agree that the London County Council, as re presenting the whole of London, should have its representation, but we consider, instead of having four, of whom two have to be elected from outside as at present, it should have three, and that in addition there should be one representing the Corporation of the City of London. The remaining five should come from the Metropolitan boroughs, three from the boroughs within the administrative County of London, and the rest, up to the number of nine, from the boroughs outside the administrative county. Then, so far as the interests of the employers are concerned, we give them an equal representation, namely, nine. This is a Measure which is supported by the whole of the trade unionists in this industry, and it has the favourable consideration of many local authorities who are concerned in the Port of London, and we put it forward because we believe that labour should be able to take a real part in the administration of the affairs of the Port.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to he brought in by Mr. Scurr, Mr. Tillett, Mr. March, Mr. Benjamin Smith, Mr. Wignall, Mr. Sexton and Mr. Short.