§ Consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), resumed.
§ CLAUSE 1.—(Schemes for ensuring more regular employment and supply of workers.)
Amendment proposed: In page 2, line 14, at end, insert:
(h) for prescribing the manner in which the practices and customs whether of employers or dock workers can be examined with a view to their improvement, alteration or elimination in the interests of port efficiency.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ 6.15 p.m.
I was dealing with the question of transfer from one job to another, and I had given certain illustrations, some of them, I think, a little painful, judging by the reception they had, of the difficulties of transferring a gang of men from one job to another. Not only does it apply from ship to shore and ship to ship but, in some docks, there is even a rule against transferring from one hold to another hold.
Lastly, on these practices, there is this very vexed question of overtime. No one wants to suggest that, as a matter of general practice, a large amount of overtime ought to, be worked in any industry, but it is well to remember that the dock industry is rather peculiar. It is not like 94 a factory where you can lay down your arrangements for production in advance. It is an industry in which, to a certain extent, one is at the mercy of the weather and the time when a ship comes in, and other factors. On occasions, it ought to be possible to work the ship and unload it at other than normal times. There are some docks where overtime is not worked at all. At the Surrey Dock, for instance, even if a ship could be unloaded in an hour, no overtime is worked. In 168 hours of the week, most of the work is taking place in 44 hours. I am not advocating large amounts of overtime, but, if we are to mechanise dock work, if it is to be a mechanised job in the future, obviously some amount of overtime has to be worked.
The hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) made a suggestion that as these arrangements had been come to between the employers and the workers in local ports, they were, in some respects, sacrosanct. I have given my immediate answer to that, and, as I say, I do not think that where employers and workers have agreed, it is necessarily a right thing. What is happening in this industry at the present time is this: If you take, say, a port which mainly imports ore, and a cargo of oranges comes into that port, the dockers go to the employers and get favourable terms for unloading the oranges. The employers say, "Well, after all, we are mainly concerned with ore. What does it matter? We will give them the most favourable terms we can." That story goes around and, at port B, where they import oranges in the main and not ore, the dockers say, "Look at the favourable terms dockers at port A have got. We will raise only six crates of oranges." At this moment I believe, in docks in Bristol and Avonmouth the number of crates you are allowed as a safe lift differs. If a lift is safe in Avonmouth, it is safe in Bristol; there is nothing in the atmosphere which is going to affect it. These are purely artificial conditions, which have been built up over many years.
I think I have said enough to illustrate that these practices do exist. I hope the Minister will neither deny the existence of the practices, nor attempt to justify them as a continuing feature in the industry. He may argue that, for some reason or other, it would be better to exclude the reference to this or that in the Bill. One 95 can always base an argument on that, but I think it would be a pity if we sought to blind ourselves to the fact that these practices exist. Under the Bill, we are saying to the employers and workers that they must produce a scheme for organisation. We know, as a matter of fact, that that scheme is going to cost the industry something like £2 million a year. That is the cost of this attendance money in war-time. The whole of that is going on to the industry; not on the Government, as in war-time, but on exporting industries and on the raw materials that come through the ports. I should think that when we ask an industry to accept a burden of that kind, it would be right, at the same time, to assure ourselves of the fact that the money is not being wasted. Let us decasualise dock labour, but not under a practice which could, in no conceivable circumstances, be justified, in an industry which was no longer casual. It is for these reasons we have put the Amendment on the Paper. The Bill would still be permissive. Even if the Amendment were accepted, there is no obligation. It merely means that where both sides of the industry have agreed on the subject, they may include machinery for dealing with these restrictive practices.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so rather expeditiously in view of the unfortunate mishap to the Liberal Party a few moments ago, when an Amendment by an hon. Friend had no support. That party turned out in larger numbers when voting for nationalisation on a Motion of Censure.
§ Mr. Baxter
I can only speak for the Liberal Party on this occasion, not for the Conservative Party.
The purpose of the Amendment is one which we discussed in Committee upstairs and on which many enlightening things were said. We presented to ourselves and, through the copies of Hansard, to the nation, the strange situation of the Conservatives on a Committee advocating a national plan—or, shall I say, a national approach—to all these things, and the Minister taking up a strong attitude against it. After all, the Government have intervened in this long distressful story 96 of the troubles of the dock workers. Whether those troubles are due to the dockers or employers or both, does not matter now. It is a long and distressful story and the Government have taken action by introducing this Bill. But, having done so, the Minister in charge of the Bill has shown a deference to local customs and a recognition of local difficulty, and he has an almost eulogistic reverence for things which go on in one part of the country which are hallowed by tradition. He and his Undersecretary, in discussions upstairs, showed such an indisposition to accept our views, that the Government, once having stepped in, must try to secure as large and unanimous an understanding as possible.
§ 6.30 p.m.
What does the Amendment say?
For prescribing the manner in which the practices and customs whether of employers or dock workers can be examined.
—that is innocuous enough—
with a view to their improvement.
That is the first part of the sentence. Then my hon. Friend goes on to the word "alteration." Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say that he is against improvement, that the conditions of bargaining and allocation of labour are so good in these ports that they cannot be altered and should not be improved? Finally we come to the word '' elimination." May I ask the Minister whether there are not customs in these ports that must be eliminated, or are we to preserve them and adopt what hon. Members on the opposite side would say was the Tory argument that the past must be retained and maintained? I urge the party opposite, and especially the right hon. Gentleman to look forward into the future. These are new times, and if the Government are going to justify their intervention in this industry they must carry it through to its logical conclusion.
§ This is a young Government, and we are anxious that it should not die too young. According to the processes of the law, sentence of death cannot be passed on anything that is a living organism until it reaches a certain age. We must allow the Government time to develop, and then we will deal with them. I urge the Government that if some day we produce a Conservative "Mr. Gollancz," and if the President of the Board of Trade will 97 give him the paper as did our Coalition Government to the Mr. Gollancz of the opposition side, they will read something like this in a similar Yellow Book. I urge hon. Members opposite to realise what it will look like: "Mr. So and So, or Mrs. So and So, of the Socialist Party, voted against any improvement in the dockworkers' arrangements, against any alteration, against any elimination. People of England, we call upon you to throw this Government out." I do not know whether we shall have by that time an hon. Gentleman like the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) writing for us, but there is always the hon. Member for Oxford to do it.
§ We are doing our best to try to make this Bill work. We had a performance by the hon. Gentleman the Under-secretary during the Committee stage, of "No, no, Nanette," from the time we first met. Whatever we suggested in the interests of the Government was rejected, and even when we tried to speed up the reports we found that same ultra-conservatism that believes that no custom once hallowed by time ought to be altered. We found that no matter how the Government had committed themselves to a Socialist policy, the trade unions are there to see that it is not carried out. The trade unions were represented in the Committee, and they said at every discussion on the Bill, in effect, that the trade unions, having established customs in various ports, these customs must not be interfered with. I suggest seriously that this Amendment is helpful to the Government, just like my. speech. It will strengthen the Government, and I do ask the right hon. Gentleman for the sake of this Government which we are nursing through its early stages, and for the sake of the dockworkers, to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Keenan
The observations which have been made by the two previous speakers have shown, in my judgment, only a secondhand knowledge of the matter under discussion. I was a little impressed by the plea of the last speaker that we should get away from the old traditions if only because I feel that some of the old traditions to which we are subjected here could with advantage be changed considerably. However, so far as this subject is concerned with changing conditions and with trying to put a 98 national aspect upon the regulation of dock labour, those who are supporting the Amendment are obviously representing the interest of the employers. I would emphasise that they have had plenty of opportunity during the last couple of generations to do something about this dock work—
§ Mr. Baxter
Since I was the seconder of the Amendment, I would point out that I have never been approached by any dock employer. I know nothing more about the subject than the vast majority of Members opposite.
§ Mr. Keenan
I have not suggested that the hon. Members had any financial interest. I am simply saying that their point of view is representative of the employers interests. The position is that, following the war period, decasualisation schemes came into being, one of which was in operation in Merseyside and Clyde-side and the rest in the other ports where there was the National Corporation scheme. There were in all these schemes, and there still are, regulations affecting the general position that have been in operation for a long time. In each of the ports the local joint committees which were attached to the national body have had their own local arrangements, subject to the national joint council of the industry. The mover of the Amendment does not seem to appreciate what difficulties there are within the industry. There are no two ports alike. We get great differences in Liverpool and London. Liverpool is a port where, in the normal way, the cargo is discharged on to the quay, and goes from there mainly by road haulage. Before the war it usually went into store on the dockside. In London, however, I understand that most of the cargoes are discharged and loaded apposite waterways.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the operations in the discharging or loading of ships. Anyone who has visited the various ports must have noticed the differences that exist. Some ports have cranes that can take anything up to ten tons, and some even more. Some of the smaller ports, however, have nothing like this, and the shifting of the cargoes is mostly done by using the ships' gear. Ships of between 2,000 to 3,000 tons cannot deal with their cargoes in the same way as a liner or a vessel of 8,000 to 10,000 tons, which may be using a port 99 like Liverpool or some other port where there are large cranes available for discharge, and where the loading and unloading does not depend on the ships' own gear. We cannot expect the same gangs of men to be used on the smaller ships which can handle only, say, 18 cwt. to a ton at a time, as those which deal with the larger vessels It is that which determines the number of men operating in the different gangs. There have been and there still are the changes made by the introduction of mechanical devices, such as electrical scoops and the like. The hon. Member seems to suggest these are new things, but these changes have been going on, so far as Liverpool is concerned, for the past 25 years to my knowledge, and the gangs have had to be adjusted to meet every changing situation.
I do not see any necessity for the Amendment; rather do I see that, as circumstances change from port to port, it is better that the present arrangements, which have worked out fairly well, should be continued. They have been determined between employers and employed and the trade union representatives, and they have agreed as to the number of men in the gang and the manner in which they should operate the loading and discharge of ships. I think that hon. Members opposite are afraid that there will be better conditions introduced into the industry than existed before the war. I want to say, as one who has been connected with the industry for 30 years, that in the old days the number of men in the gangs and the quantity of cargoes that they had to handle were arranged under conditions that were nothing like so good as they ought to have been. The economic whip was over the men, and they had to put up with smaller gangs and handle work in a way which they should never have been called upon to do. I know it as one who has had 16 years as an official, and it is with this knowledge that I want to point out that, apart from the mining industry, there is no other industry in the country that has as high a mortality rate and accident rate as the dockers. The weakness of the men in some of the ports has been due to the fact that they have not been able to work under the efficient conditions that they were entitled to have. It was because of that fact that the men were casual workers, and there were too 100 many of them. If the Amendment is accepted, it will mean the wrecking of all the arrangements that have been made in all the different ports and which have worked quite well during the past. The machinery, as worked between the employers, the employed and the trade unions, has been all right, and it is for this reason that I do not see any necessity for the Amendment.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Awbery (Bristol, Central)
I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), and I do not feel that I have ever heard a more scathing condemnation of the inefficiency of an industry than I heard fall from his lips. It would have been a splendid speech from that point of view, because of the proof it has offered that those who have been running the industry do not know their own business. Last week in this House we watched the Opposition. like a hawk hovering and watching over a poultry yard, ready to pounce upon its prey after it had devastated the whole of the countryside. Evidently it knocked its head against the ground. This week they have taken a different role. They now want to waste the time of the House. We had this very Amendment before the Committee a fortnight ago and we discussed it for some considerable time. Bringing it again before the House is an attempt to waste valuable and precious time.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I understand it has been ruled by your predecessor that an Amendment which has been accepted by the Chair cannot be described as an Amendment which wastes the time of the House. As I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, this is an Amendment which wastes the time of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
As a matter of fact, I think it is out of Order to say that a particular Amendment should not have been selected, but, as for wasting the time of the House, that is a matter of opinion. I selected this Amendment. If there is any criticism of the choice of Amendment, it should be directed to me. Amendments which are discussed in Committee upstairs are not to be rejected so readily by the Chair as when they have been discussed by a Committee of the 101 Whole House. A Committee upstairs is only a mirror—a very small mirror —of the House as a whole.
§ Mr. Awbery
The moving of the Amendment is not a waste of time of the House, but a repetition of the same argument used upstairs appears to me to be wasting precious and valuable time which this House and this country can ill afford.
The hon. Member for Monmouth raised a large number of questions regarding the number of men engaged on various operations in the ports. Whether we agree or disagree with the number of men who shall be engaged on any particular operation, we must agree that the number in a gang has been mutually agreed between the employer and the employee; and if that principle which has been fixed by mutual arrangement is to be changed, it must be changed by mutual arrangement and not by legislation. This Amendment takes away the industrial machine that already exists in the industry for settling these disputes, and I suggest that legislation is no substitute or alternative for a mutual agreement between employers and employees. The hon. Member said the dockers in some places were not prepared to do overtime. I would remind hon. Members that right through the war these men gave away conditions that had been won by a hard struggle from very difficult opponents. They have worked three shifts for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right throughout the war, and in some ports which were being attacked the position was extremely difficult for those men who carried on through it all. To say now that there are in existence conditions in which men will not work overtime is casting a reflection upon men who have done such wonderful work during the war.
The hon. Gentleman raised the question of ore and oranges. If he had worked at a port he would know there is no relationship between ore and oranges, nor between the men who shovel ore or the men who handle oranges. They are different types of men altogether. One gang is called a shovel gang to shovel the ore, and they are quite apart from the other men who handle oranges and case goods. Why the hon. Gentleman should associate ore with oranges I do not know, except perhaps that the two words begin with 102 the letter "o." The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) put up a strong case against this Amendment when the matter was discussed in Committee. He said he concurred with the Minister's pronouncement that we must in the end leave the industry to work out its own salvation. We on this side of the House say there is machinery already in existence for doing what this Amendment suggests should be done; if we accept the Amendment we shall interfere with the industrial machine, and, instead of improving the machine, we will probably destroy it. I ask the Minister of Labour not to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton)
I rise with considerable diffidence to address the House, containing as it does at this moment such a number of experts on this subject, but I heartily associate myself with the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). As I see it, on the opposite side of the House the argument has fallen into two parts. In the first place, it is argued that, while casual labour in the dock industry has been a very bad practice in the past and has led to a good deal of the trouble which existed in the dock industry, there are, however, no other practices in the industry itself which need be remedied, examined or improved in any way. The other argument is that, because there are differences in working conditions between the various ports, there is no case whatever for examining or improving any restrictive practices which may exist in the industry. That argument about differences between the ports was put forward in the case which was advocated in Committee, by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, and by other hon. Members on this side of the House, and was put forward against making the scheme a national scheme. But I fail to see how it can possibly be applied in any reasoning for rejecting this Amendment. I cannot see that there is any connection between the two. Because certain conditions differ between certain ports, why should we not improve, examine or root out any evil practices if they do not lead to the national good?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman appears not to have heard the speech of the mover of the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment 103 referred to rules in Avonmouth and somewhere else, and said that what was safe in Avonmouth ought to be safe in the other port he named. My hon. Friend, as I understood his argument, was dealing with that and was pointing out that what is safe in one place might not be safe in another place, where conditions are different.
§ Mr. Nutting
That is purely a question of safety precautions. There are many other aspects of the industry apart from safety precautions.
§ Mr. Keenan
Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that while it may be a matter of safety, the fact remains that a particular change of operation does determine the number of men in a gang?
§ Mr. Nutting
That may be so, as far as safety precautions are concerned, but, although I do not know much about it, I do maintain that the question of safety precautions is not the only matter of importance. As to the argument that there are no really bad practices in the industry, why do the Government reject an Amendment which, in the first place, is only permissive, and, in the second place, merely proposes to make it possible in certain events, and should it be proved necessary, to examine whether such practices exist? If there are no such practices, why should anybody be frightened of having an examination?
The position as it exists today is surely very different from the position before the war. Here I would refer to the speech made by my hon. Friend. We have, as we all know, a most terrific national job on hand to get back the prosperity of this country. The dockers' industry can play one of the most effective parts in restoring that prosperity to this country, but if such restrictive practices as my hon. Friend has described continue to exist in the industry, if there is no machinery put in this Bill for rooting out, in the light of an examination, any such practices, and if the labour extravagance, which has gone on in the past and which has not been denied by hon. Members opposite, continues in the future, I fail to see how we can possibly get down to our task, so far as the dockers' industry is concerned, and get back the export trade and the prosperity that we need, without any fear of hold-ups occurring.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I think, in view of the two speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite, it is very desirable that the admirable case which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorney-croft) should be stabilised, because it is obvious from the speeches of those two hon. Gentlemen that neither of them in the least understood what my hon. Friend has said. They were reasonable speeches, but were completely divorced from what my hon. Friend said. They were so busy interrupting when he was speaking, that I am not surprised they did not understand what his speech was about. I, therefore, propose to reiterate what my hon. Friend said. In the first instance, I would say that anybody who listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) —if I may say so without appearing patronising—would pay him a tribute for the obvious sincerity with which he spoke. All of us who know his responsible position in the dockers' world would also pay a tribute to his public career in that connection. The first error made by the hon. Gentleman—and I took his words down—was in suggesting that my hon. Friend was speaking in support of the employers' interests. How could he say that, when my hon. Friend made it abundantly clear that these practices which exist today, and which were possibly necessary in the past, are practices which are not unilateral but bilateral, both on the part of employers and employees?
§ Mr. Solley (Thurrock) rose—
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
No, I am not going to give way. The hon. Gentleman can speak later if he wishes. Those practices were not unilateral but bilateral. The whole of my hon. Friend's argument, which was evidently not fully assimilated or assessed by the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, was that in arrangements of that kind there was a real danger —and I commend this to the hon. Gentleman—in all these schemes which will arise when we come to further schemes of nationalisation, of some agreement between the employers and the employed which may be very inimical to the consumer. That is a point of view with which, I should imagine, the hon. Gentleman present representing the Liberal Party would agree. That was the whole point of my hon. 105 and learned Friend's argument and it was completely misunderstood. It is not true to say that my hon. and learned Friend for one moment took the employers' case. What, in a nutshell, was his case? He admitted, as we all admit on this side of the House, that the dockers had a very raw deal in the past. I will go so far as to say that the way in which they were treated 40 or 50 years ago was a disgrace to the country and to all parties in the country. [Interruption.] May I assure hon. Gentlemen that I shall conclude my speech earlier and it will be easier for them to get to bed if they allow me to continue without interruptions?
The situation then was a disgrace to the whole country, but it is not the situation with which we are faced today. Today all parties, the Government as much as anyone, are anxious to improve the conditions, and they have brought forward proposals which in the main, I think I am right in saying, we on this side agree will carry out that purpose. The hon. Member for Kirkdale was apparently highly indignant because my hon. and learned Friend had suggested that there were variations from port to port which were not necessary and which had perhaps grown up as a result of custom, probably because of troubles between employers and employed and the introduction of special conditions following those troubles. This argument was attacked by the hon. Member who said such variations were an excellent thing in themselves. I do not want to get on to a wider subject, because you, Mr. Speaker, would pro bably call me to Order, but it seemed a poor argument against nationalisation, because the whole effect of nationalisation in this industry, or any other, is to have one uniform scheme and not to make any allowances —
§ Mr. Keenan
The noble Lord is referring to a scheme and is forgetting that he is dealing with the conditions in the industry, the regulations which govern the industry, which must vary from port to port because of differences in practice. I, at least, am not prepared to support the idea that nationalisation is necessarily standardisation.
§ Earl Winterton
I must not pursue that argument or I should get into trouble with the Chair, but I should advise the hon. Member to enter into a private discussion 106 with the Lord President of the Council, because his views and those of the Lord President on nationalisation are not necessarily the same. The hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery) seemed to think it a most appalling offence for any Member, especially of the Opposition —and may I say en passant that Members supporting the Government will learn quite a lot in the next few weeks about how to treat an active Opposition —to avail himself of his rights to discuss a question here in the House even though it has been discussed in Committee. There was no repetition of arguments in this House. The hon. and learned Gentleman put up a good and moderate case for the consideration of the Minister, and because he put it so moderately I hope the Minister will agree with it. Surely here is an admirable opportunity to do something to help a cause which we all have at heart, and that is to try to prevent unnecessary costs, which do not necessarily benefit the men employed by giving them better wages or shorter hours, being imported into the transit to consumers of goods which have been imported into this country, or into the transit between the British manufacturers of goods, employers and employed, and the people abroad who are to purchase those goods.
I am the last person to attempt to give the supporters of the Government a lesson in economics [Laughter] —the hon. Member need not laugh, some of us know quite as much about economics as he does —but I will state an economic truism at which I am sure the Minister will not laugh however much hon. Members behind him may laugh. The truth is that unless we can sell our goods throughout the world in competition with the goods of other countries, and unless we can import goods at a reasonable cost, our economic future is indeed doubtful. All that my hon. and learned Friend said, to sum up his case in a few words, was that it would do no harm to the dockers to look into these variations between ports, these variations which once were necessary but are no longer necessary, and do everything to make the industry efficient.
I would add a further point and try to ram it home. Do hon. Members opposite realise the argument which is being used against industry in this country by people in other countries? They say, "Owing to the old fashioned attitude of the trades 107 unions, as well as of employers, in England they will not use machines, because each side thinks that if it does there will be some upset to the balance between employers and trade unions." We do not believe that to be true, but the best way to make it look as if it were true is for us always to be suspicious in this House when there is any question of improving machines in the actual, physical sense of that word, or improving the machinery of the conditions of work. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to give close attention to the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend, because I hope that he will not put us to the necessity of dividing on this Amendment, but if he does not agree to the Amendment or give us some promise the Opposition will certainly divide.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I think I had better begin my reply to some of the points in the Debate by saying at once that we cannot accept the Amendment. The hon. Member who moved it sedulously avoided referring to the one governing word on which it turned. But before I come to that, let me deal with some of the points he put in support of his case. He hoped that I should not deny that these practices exist or attempt to justify them. The only thing I am going to do is to deny that they exist in the way in which he suggested. He referred to the fact that in the old days there was redundant labour in and around the docks, and rather made the suggestion—really more than a suggestion, a definite statement —that the unions liked to have redundant labour.
I should not like the right hon. Gentleman to misquote me. I did not suggest that the unions liked redundant labour. If he understood me to say that, he misunderstood me.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I am sorry if I did misunderstand, but I thought the implication he made was that it was to the advantage of the unions to have a lot of men there, so that a lot of men could have the little bit of work that was going.
§ Mr. Isaacs
Yes, it did, and that is our point. In a matter of this kind the unions do not want to have surplus labour hanging about the docks. Neither do the employers. The hon. Member referred 108 also to the industrial conditions that operate in the various ports. According to the way he argued the matter, it sounded as if he thought that these were trade union instructions and decisions, but they are port practices. If, as he said, our ports are inefficient, that is as much a reflection upon the management of the ports—in fact, it is more. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member looks at Hansard in the morning I am sure that he will find that he did use the words "Our ports are inefficient," and I am saying that that is as much a reflection upon the management of the ports as upon the workers.
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to understand that I am not a bit concerned about making a reflection on the managements of the ports. I think our ports are to some extent inefficient, but I think that both sides are to blame. I refer to both employers and trade unions. I want to have the practices of both sides looked into, to see whether we can make them more efficient in future.
§ Mr. Isaacs
Very good, Sir. Let us accept the suggestion that both sides have been to blame, and that here an opportunity is given to them to rectify it. I want to point out how the Amendment is not likely to help them. The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) made one or two references which I would like to examine. He referred to gangs of men having a change in their machinery or apparatus. He said there were cases where gangs used to have 12 men and now ought to have 10, but they still insisted upon 12. I think if those cases are examined it will be found that when they had 12 men and old apparatus, it was darned hard work for the 12 men, and that when they put in new apparatus and kept the 12 men, it made the task a little less arduous for those men; but, at the same time, it gave the employer a vastly improved production. Improved machinery usually leads to improved production, but too often in the past improved machinery and improved production have meant benefits to the employers and no benefits at all to the workers by way of increased wages, leisure, and safety.
The hon. Member said something about transfer. I do not propose to go fully into that matter, but I understand he 109 mentioned cases of men refusing to go from one ship to another or from one hold to another. I understand that they are cases where the kind of task has been set and the job has been given, so much to be paid for clearing this job or this task. If the men threw themselves into the job and worked with a will because the job was there and the price was paid, and they got it done an hour earlier, that is no reason why they should automatically switch over to another job, especially as, very often, employers are reluctant to pay overtime for continuing work. I think we should find that in some cases men are not anxious to work overtime when they have done a day's arduous, difficult and dangerous work. I cannot feel very cross about them for saying, "We have done our eight hours, and we have had enough of it for today, so we will call it a day."
The hon. Member also referred to ore and oranges. I will not go into the details of this matter, but there was a point arising out of it. Because it had been agreed at one port that they should lift only so many crates of oranges, the men working at other ports insisted, he said, that they should also have those conditions; but there are several other factors which come into this question. First of all, there is the question of the lifting apparatus in the other ports. Has it the same lifting power as the apparatus in the port where the conditions were first fixed? Secondly, how are the oranges lifted? In nets, on small moving platforms, or in roped bundles? The answer to the question makes all the difference in the world. As I understand it, it is much easier to load a dozen or two crates of oranges on to one of these small platforms and hoist it with chains, than it is to put a rope round a dozen boxes of oranges, with the risk that they will fall out. That is an important factor.
There is one other point. The hon. Member says that the scheme now running has cost the ports £2,000,000 in wartime. That may be so, but the wartime arrangements necessitated that at certain ports, especially on the East Coast, men had to be available to unload ships, but it was not always possible to send the ships to those ports. Nevertheless, you had to keep the labour there ready, at any rate to a greater extent than would have been necessary normally. Secondly, under the convoy system, ships came in in large numbers in- 110 stead of trickling in three or four a day. To enable the ships to be turned round quickly, there had to be a gang of men capable of turning them round quickly. If the men were not wanted on the day after, because no ships had come in, the scheme provided a maintenance allowance.
Further, the hon. Member said that the industry ought not to be asked to accept the burden. If the industry is not able to produce a scheme, which has to be approved by Parliament, which will not land a burden upon them, it means that they do not know their job. We believe that they do know their job and that they will be able to produce a scheme.
§ 7.15 p.m.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but I did not say that the industry should not be asked to accept the burden. I want the industry to be asked to accept the burden of financing the scheme, but they must do it efficiently so that the money will be well spent.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I tried to put the words down as the hon. Gentleman said them and I have the words "accept a burden of this kind." If I have once again made a mistake, once again I apologise.
The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) referred to several words, but there was one word that he did not refer to and to which I propose to refer in a moment. Unfortunately, the hon. Member said that he did not know much about dock operation, and I think his speech proved it. He made one particular reference. He spoke about the possible production of a Yellow Book in the future to show the country how Labour Members voted on this matter. A little later, my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) made a reference to electric bogies. The hon. Member for Wood Green must have anticipated my hon. Friend, referring to his statement as an "election bogy." That is what it sounded like to me.
Then the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) made an interesting little reference to the matter. I would like to point out to him that we did not say that there are no problems that need attention. There are problems that need attention. I will explain to the House how it is intended to deal with those problems. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham 111 (Earl Winterton) made a point which, I think, shows that he must have overlooked one part of the Bill. He referred to the danger of collusion between employers and workers against the consumers. There always is that danger, but in this scheme the danger is clearly avoided. First of all, the scheme must be approved by the Ministry of Labour, whatever kind of Minister they have. Secondly, the scheme must be laid before Parliament. Therefore, Parliament will have a first-class opportunity such as it has never had before, for taking care that industries do not get together to exploit the consumers. I say at once that any such attempt would be most reprehensible, and that all persons ought to set their faces against any attempt by any side of industry to take advantage of the protection given them by Parliament in order to impose prices upon the consumers that the consumers ought not to be asked to pay.
Now let me come to what I think is the real purpose of the Amendment, which says,
prescribing the manner "—not spelt m.a.n.n.a. —in which practices should be dealt with. It is no good talking about improvement, alteration or elimination; it is the "manner." All that this Amendment says is that in these schemes we shall set out the manner in which these matters are to be dealt with. It has already been decided that it is possible for docks to have separate schemes. We have no objection, none whatever. In fact, we should like to see schemes making possible some centralisation, especially centralisation of finance. For good or ill, it is now laid down in the Bill, in Clauses that we have now passed, that they may have schemes for separate ports or parts of ports.
If each scheme is to have in it some prescription as to the manner in which ports shall proceed in this matter, we shall have a lovely pickle. It would be far better for the organisation at the centre to deal with this, as I shall show in a moment they are dealing with it, than to have laid down separately in each port the manner in which to deal with each question as it arises. Such a provision would make this Measure a Bill for dealing with disputes rather than a Bill for decasualisation. We do not want one manner of settling a dispute in one area, say the Liverpool 112 group, who might agree to go to the industrial court, while another group might agree to go to the arbitration tribunal, and still another have an independent arbitrator appointed. That would never get us anywhere. Therefore, we base objection to this mainly on the ground of the fact that it will restrict the schemes to having their manner of dealing with disputes laid down in each separate scheme.
I can, perhaps, take the House a little further than was possible in Committee, to show what the industry is, in fact, doing. I was not in a position, during the Committee stage, to quote the actual terms then being discussed between the workers and the employers on their National Council. I can now quote it in full, and this is the decision that they reached and which has now been endorsed:A Joint Committee of the National Joint Council shall be established forthwith with the following terms of reference: to examine the industrial arrangements of the industry, on the basis that there will be permanent schemes of decasualisation, and report; the Committee to be provided with an independent chairman appointed by the Minister of Labour and National Service, after consultation with the two sides. Where the independent chairman so agrees, on the instance of either side the National Joint Council shall report a difference to the Minister of Labour and National Service.This reference means that they have agreed that they will examine immediately all these questions of difference of methods of operation throughout the industry. I am not saying that they are doing it forthwith, but as a part of the general settlement that is being negotiated today, and although, at an appropriate moment on the Third Reading, I may be able to give the House some further information, they are getting on with this job. The introduction of this Clause would mean that we should possibly find ourselves having chaos again, by reason of the complexity and the number of separate schemes, instead of simplification. I, therefore, ask the House to reject the Amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman said he might give us some in formation on Third Reading. I think it might be helpful to the House if he gave it now—
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
|Division No. 49.]||AYES.||[7.25 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Howard, Hon. A.||Poole, Col. 0. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. J.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hutchison, Ll.-Col. J. R. (G'gow, C.)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Birch, LI.-Col. Nigel||Keeling, E. H.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boothby, R.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Renton, Mai. D.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Lambert, G.||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Bower, N.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Legge-Bourke, Major E. A. H.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Lindsay, Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Linstead, H. N.||Shepherd, Lt. W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Lipson, D. L.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W''ld'n)||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Carson, E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. O.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Cooper-Key, Maj. E. M.||Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Teeling, Fit.-Lieut. W.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Digby, Maj. S. Wingfield||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Dodds-Parker, Col. A. D.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Touche, G. C.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Marsden, Comdr. A.||Turton, R. H.|
|Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Marshall, Comdr. D. (Bodmin)||Vane, Lt.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Drewe, C.||Maude, J. C.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Mellor, Sir J.||Williams, Lt.-Cdr. G. W. (T'nbr'ge)|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Molson, A. H. E.||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||York, C.|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Nicholson, G.||Young, Maj. Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Nutting, Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hare, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. H. (W'dbridge)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Harvey, Air-Cmdre. A. V.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Mr. Studholme.|
|Adams, Capt. H. R. (Balham)||Burden, T. W.||Farthing, W. J.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Burke, W. A.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Adamson, Mrs. J. L.||Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Foot, M. M.|
|Allen, A, C. (Bosworth)||Callaghan, James||Foster, W. (Wigan)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Freeman, P. (Newport)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Chamberlain, R. A.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Champion, A. J.||Gallacher, W.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Chater, D.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Chetwynd, Capt. G. R.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Austin, H. L.||Clitherow, R.||Gilzean, A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cluse, W. S.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Cobb, F. A.||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Cocks, F. S.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Collick, P.||Grey, C. F.|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Grierson, E.|
|Balfour, A.||Cook, T. F.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Barton, C.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Gunter, Capt. R. J.|
|Battley, J. R.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Guy, W. H.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Corvedale, Viscount||Haire, Fit.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)|
|Belcher, J. W.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Benson, G.||Daggar, G.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Beswick, Fit.-Lieut. F.||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Hardman, D. R.|
|Bing, Capt. G. H. C.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Binns, J.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Haworth, J.|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Dobbie, W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Boardman, H.||Dodds, N. N.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Herbison, Miss M|
|Bowden, FIg.-Offr. H. W.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Durbin, E. F. M.||Holman, P.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Horabin, T. L.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Edelman, M.||House, G.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Hoy, J.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Hughes. Lt. H D. (W'lhampton, W)|
§ The House divided: Ayes no; Noes 248.115
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Paget, R. T.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Stamford, W.|
|Janner, B.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Pargiter, G. A.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Keenan, W.||Parker, J.||Swingler, Capt. S.|
|Kenyon, C.||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Kinley, J.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Lang, G.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lavers, S.||Pearson, A.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Perrins, W.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Poole, Major C. C. (Lichfield)||Thorneycroft, H.|
|Levy, B. W.||Popplewell, E.||Tiffany, S.|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tolley, L.|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pritt, D. N.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Proctor, W. T.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Longden, F.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Lyne, A. W.||Randall, H. E.||Walkden, E.|
|McAdam, W||Ranger, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Reeves, J.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Mack, J. D.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Warbey, W. N.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Rhodes, H.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Webb, M. (Brad-ford, C.)|
|McLeavy, F.||Robens, A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Roberts, G. 0. (Caernarvonshire)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Wells, Maj. W. T. (Walsall)|
|Marquand, H. A.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Mathers, G.||Royle, C.||Wigg, Col. G. E. C.|
|Mayhew, Maj. C. P.||Segal, Sqn.-Ldr. S.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Medland, H. M.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)||Williams, Rt. Hon. E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Mort, D. L.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Moyle, A.||Skeffington, A. M.||Williamson, T.|
|Murray, J. D.||Skinnard, F. W.||Willis, E.|
|Naylor, T. E||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J,|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Solley, L. J.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Sorensen, R. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Orbach, M.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Mr. Collindridge and|
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, leave out Sub section (5).
This Amendment is of considerable importance, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour will be able to accept it or at any rate, to give an assurance that he will consider the matter seriously. If this Subsection is allowed to remain in the Clause, it will bring within the range of the criminal law certain classes of dockers and employers, but certain classes only. Subsection (4) defines an offence and those who are capable of commiting an offence. According to Subsection (1), a scheme may provide for a variety of things, but it need not necessarily include all the things set out in that Subsection. It may include some or all of them, but if it includes two or more, that is to say if the scheme makes a provisionprohibiting or restricting the employment of dock workers to whom the scheme does not apply and the employment of dock workers 116 by employers to whom the scheme does not apply,then an offence will be committed if workers outside the scheme are employed by employers within the scheme, or workers within the scheme are employed by employers without the scheme.
If those two conditions are embodied in the scheme—but only if they are embodied in it—there is the possibility of an offence being committed. A scheme may be drafted and accepted by the Minister without those provisions being included, and in a scheme of that sort, the dockers working under it would not be subject to the criminal law. If those provisions are included, however, another curious result follows. The dockers may still not be subject to the criminal law if they commit a breach, because something else has to be done before it becomes an offence. Subsection (4) states that the scheme may do something more than provide—it may "declare." The result of this is that there may be two schemes, both of them 117 including the provisions applying to the workers and employers as defined in Subsection (4), but one of them not declaring a breach to be an offence, and the other declaring it to be an offence. The question I want to put to the Minister is, who is to insert the declaration in the scheme? Suppose that a scheme is made without the declaration being put in it; suppose that the declaration is not part and parcel of it when it goes before the Minister, the employers and workers having agreed that the declaration of an offence shall not be included. When the scheme goes before the Minister, he may amend it. Can he include the declaration, and if so, upon what principle does he intend to include it in one scheme and not in another?
What would be the result of this? Various schemes can be applied to the different ports of the country and even to different parts of the same port. The result is that what might be a criminal offence in one part of a port might not be a criminal offence in another part, if different schemes were adopted. It is bad enough to bring the dockers within the range of the criminal law for an offence under this Bill. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says the Bill does not do that, but it does. That is the result if the scheme includes the provisions of Subsection (4) creating the offence. Subsection (5) imposes a penalty of £50 fine or three months imprisonment, or both. Not only would the dockers be brought within the range of the criminal law, but the provision would apply to certain areas without applying to neighbouring areas. This gives a geographical limitation to the criminal law, or alternatively, it gives a discriminatory power to the Minister when he makes an Order.
It is highly important in the interests of the liberty of the dockers themselves that (his penal provision should be omitted from the Bill; no penal provision should be included in a Bill of this sort at all. Why should it not be left, as it always has been, to civil redress? If the Government are to include penal provisions and bring some of these within the range of the criminal law, why do they have to put in a term of imprisonment? Would not a fine be an adequate penalty in these cases? A term of imprisonment should be treated as an alternative to the non-payment of a fine and not as part of the punishment. That would be adequate. 118 I deplore bringing the dockers within the criminal law, especially in the penal way for which Subsection (4) provides. I hope that the Minister will find it possible to accept the Amendment, or to say that between now and the Third Reading he will look again at Subsections (4) and (5) and will find a way, if possible, to meet the objection.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, North)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am neither a dockworker nor a member of the legal profession, and, therefore, I shall confine myself to a very few remarks. A criminal offence is being created by Subsection (4) of the Clause, and the position is not at all clear to my layman's mind. It is possible, apparently, that an act may be an offence under this Bill in one part of the country and not an offence in another part of the country. It is not very clear precisely what can be made such an offence. It depends upon a declaration to be put into the scheme and it is not clear who is to put in that declaration, or who is to agree to it. Is it to be the leaders of the organised workers and employers? Can the Minister also make this declaration?
Again, to my unlegal mind, we are giving a power to persons who are vaguely specified to create an offence which can be an offence in one part of the country and not in another. Therefore, I support the plea which my hon. Friend has just made, that this matter should be further considered. I do not know whether we can get an explanation of what is meant put before this House, which is supposed to represent, and should represent, the rights of the ordinary individual. We should have a much clearer explanation and a reconsideration of the matter; otherwise we shall be allowing something to creep into this type of Bill to which the general public would never give their approval.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I think that the House and the mover and seconder of the Amendment may admit that I have some right to be heard on this Amendment. The original Clause as it appeared in the Bill on Second Reading seemed to me to be highly objectionable. It seemed to introduce—I think for the first time in the law of this country—a criminal sanction into the question of obedience 119 to, or neglect of, a provision in a scheme of employment. I raised the matter on Second Reading. I am against this Amendment and I think the Government have met fully and handsomely the criticism which I made on Second Reading. I am entirely satisfied with the Clause as it now stands in that respect, and I express my appreciation to my right hon. Friend for the completeness with which the Clause to which I objected has been re-modelled. I do not know whether the mover and seconder of the Amendment have considered what would happen if they had their way. They do not seem to have stopped to consider it. They do not want Subsection (4).
§ Mr. Silverman
But it has not been. It cannot be done now because we have passed that Subsection. Therefore, we would be in a very peculiar position if the House were to accept the advice of the hon. Member and the Seconder of the Amendment. They would make things infinitely worse.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will give way in a minute if the hon. Member is not satisfied with my argument, but he should let me make it first. The position would be infinitely worse if, having passed Subsection (4), we were now to omit Subsection (5). Subsection (4) now stands, and it has been said that it is not understood what is the offence that has to be considered. What is aimed at in Subsection (4), is an attempt to sabotage the agreed decasualisation scheme. I said in my speech on Second Reading that I saw no objection to that at all, and I had a notion that that was really all that the Government had originally intended.
§ Mr. Morris
That may be true, but the point that the hon. Member should deal with is not that if is aimed at sabotage, but that it is aimed at sabotage only in part, because it is only if it is declared in the scheme that it is sabotage. If it is not so declared, then, however much the sabotage, it is not touched.
§ Mr. Silverman
I cannot state the whole of my argument in the same breath and in the same sentence. If I could, it would save a lot of time. If the hon. Gentleman would wait, he would appreciate that I am capable of reading the words on the Paper, and I think I know what they mean. I am saying that the offence aimed at in Subsection (4) is the offence of sabotaging an agreed scheme without which dock labour would remain casual. If there were not to be some such offence as is defined in Subsection (4), the whole purpose of this Measure would be defeated. We can have the decasualisation scheme, have it agreed by the employers and by the workmen, accepted by the Ministry, passed by this House, and then, if we leave every employer and every workman in the country, in spite of that, free to work on the docks, what is the good of all our decasualisation schemes?
It is perfectly right that the offence is defined in Subsection (4); it is quite wrong that it should have gone as wide as it did when the Bill was first presented to the House. Now, it is said that it will apply only in some places and not in others. Well, why not? It may well be that it is not necessary to make that sort of thing an offence in one place and quite necessary to do it in another, and no one wants to make a thing a criminal offence if it is not necessary.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
Surely, that is a new departure? The only parallel I can think of is the law on suspected persons in London, and London alone.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member may be right. I am not an expert about the law on suspected persons in London, and I cannot see the parallel at all. It is quite true that this Bill does new things. I have no objection to doing new things. To my mind, it is not to be argued against a thing, that it is new; the question, surely, is whether it is sensible? The aim is, in the first instance, and in the first instance only, to leave the matter to the people concerned in the several areas, or districts, to work out a scheme necessary and suitable for them, and, if they then say so, and think it necessary, but not otherwise, they may, if they like, but are not bound to, make a breach of the scheme in this way an offence. I assume that, when the Minister considers this 121 scheme, he will have regard, in each particular scheme, whether this provision has been introduced or not. When he thinks it is left out where it ought to be in, he may suggest that it should be put in, and, if he thinks it is put in where it should be reasonably left out, he can suggest to them to leave it out, and, behind it all, rests the authority of the House of Commons, which may look at every particular scheme and omit or insert this Amendment when they consider the scheme, if they think fit. There is nothing wrong with that, surely. If no agreement at all is reached, the Minister himself lays a scheme before the House, and, no doubt, he will consider whether to put this provision in or not.
Having defined that there shall be such an offence, what the hon. Member now wants to do is to leave out the limitation. What is done by Subsection (5) which the hon. Member wants to leave out? Instead of leaving the thing at large, it becomes a statutory offence, created by this Bill and triable only at assizes before a judge and jury— (Interruption). But that is what will be done if we leave out Subsection (5). It will leave the offence merely as a statutory offence, with no limitation of jurisdiction, no limitation of penalty and with other consequences which I will come to in a moment. The hon. Member ought to read the Clause before he advises the House to leave it out. Subsection (5) states:(5) Any person who contravenes any provision in relation to which such a declaration is in force shall be guilty of an offence under this Section, and shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine, or to both such imprisonment and a fine.—with a further limitation after the maximum fine that can be inflicted in the case of any person not being a body corporate. If we leave out that Subsection, instead of having the offence triable only on summary conviction, with maximum penalties laid down by the Act, it will be tried on indictment with much more serious penalties. That, I think, would be a very good reason for not accepting the Amendment, but it does not stop there. Has the hon. Member looked at Clause 3? This states:Provided that nothing in the said pro visions shall after the expiration of the said Acts enable criminal proceedings to be brought otherwise than for a contravention of pro- 122 visions prohibiting or restricting the employment of dock workers except such as may be specified therein.That is a reference, again, to Subsection (4). Now let us look at the last three lines:or authorise the imposition for any such contravention of any penalty not authorised by Subsection (5) of Section one of this Act.Under that proviso, there cannot be brought any criminal proceedings except those carefully delimited by Subsection (4), and, there again, by any other sort of trial or penalty than that under Subsection (5). If the hon. and learned Member wants to leave out Subsection (5), let him not think that he is doing the dock labourers any good. On the contrary. The hon. Gentleman begins his argument by objecting to the introduction of a new principle of the criminal law, to the creation of a new offence and the infliction of new criminal penalties, and, in order to help that argument forward, recommends to the House a course of procedure which increases the offence, increases the penalty and renders the offenders liable to a much more severe penalty than they would be liable to. So it seems to me, and I thought it right to say so. If I am wrong, no doubt others more learned in the law will point out my error, but it does seem to me to be highly dangerous, even from the hon. Gentleman's point of view, to have Subsection (5) omitted.
I would like to end with what I said in the beginning—that, in its new form, the Clause does everything it ought to do and no more than it ought to do—and I think the end of the little incident which started on Second Reading may be accepted by Members of the Opposition, though none of them are in the House, except a few on the Front Bench, as an example of how well one can succeed with an intelligent and responsible Government if one limits one's opposition to constructive items.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft
I am bound to say that I wish the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), when concerned with the liberty of the individual, had approached me, perhaps through the Welsh Parliamentary Party to which I now have the honour to belong, to see whether we could not avoid these divergencies. I am bound to say that this Amendment could not be accepted. I think there was one point raised in the argument of the hon. Gentleman which 123 had some substance in it, and that point was that, under the Bill as it is, we might have conditions in part of a port which had a penal provision, and a scheme in another part of the port which did not have penal provision. The hon. Gentleman thought that was undesirable, and I rather agree with him. I have always held that the principles of the scheme ought to be laid down upon a national basis. I do not think it would be workable on any other terms, but I will not pursue that because it would be out of order.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) says there is no precedent for the wide punitive powers included in the original Bill. Every dock worker at the present time in this country, or a large number of them, is at present working under the provisions of the National Dock Labour Corporation Scheme, under the Emergency Powers Act, and subject to wide penalties for almost any action which they can take almost at any time of the day or night.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? I do not think he was present when I made my speech on Second Reading. I was only attempting to make a kind of shorthand reference to the much larger argument I put forward then. The only thing which justifies my intervention now is that so far as dockers of Liverpool and, possibly, Clydeside are concerned, they worked, voluntarily, schemes of their own during the war, without the Essential Works Order being applied to them at all.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I fully accept the explanation of the hon. Gentleman that he was trying to shorten his argument, but I do not think simplicity lent clarity in that particular instance. This matter has been gone into very fully, and as a result of concessions which the right hon. Gentleman is making later, both under this Clause and elsewhere, and so far as the National Dock Labour Corporation schemes are concerned, the offences are limited to that very narrow field of people who are actually trying to break the scheme. I think that is a very great advance on the present position and, in those circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friends below the gangway will not press this Amendment to a Division
§ Mr. Solley (Thurrock)
I rose to my feet a few minutes ago at the same time as my hon. Friend the member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) but unfortunately, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I did not then catch your eye. If I had, I should probably have given expression to some of the principles uttered by my hon. Friend but not with his eloquence and force. Therefore, I do not desire to take up the time of the House in reiterating what he said. However, there are one or two points made by the mover and seconder of this Amendment, which I think could be dealt with to advantage. First, the point that this penal sanction is a new departure in statutory law, because it has a geographical limitation. This is by no means a new departure and I could give many an example to prove my point. For instance, there are offences under the Metropolitan Police Act in the nature of nuisances which are only applicable to a person who is unfortunate enough to commit those offences within the Metropolitan Police area, and which are not criminal offences outside the Metropolitan Police area. In that case, you have a statute which, in fact, defines crimes with a geographical incidence, and we are all aware, if we think about the matter, of the number of public corporations which have the power to make by-laws, which have a geographical limitation and infringement of which are in fac criminal offences. I venture to think that I have established my thesis that this Subsection is not a new departure in legislation.
A second point was made by the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, namely, that it would be sufficient to have a civil redress in the event of a breach of one of these Regulations which we have in mind. In my submission these regulations are of the very essence of the whole scheme. As the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said, a breach of such regulations would, in effect, amount to sabotage of the scheme and it is not sufficient, therefore, merely to rely upon a civil redress. Those of us who have had experience of cases where the Factories Acts have been infringed, are too painfully aware that in many cases not merely is a civil remedy not sufficient, but the criminal sanction is not sufficiently harsh. For these two reasons, technical though they may be, in addition to the argument put forward by the hon. Member for 125 Nelson and Colne, with which I am in entire agreement, I support the Government in opposing this Amendment.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The objection to Subsection (5) is two-fold: one, that you are introducing a criminal penalty into a matter which really derives from a scheme which settles the contractual rights between an employer and an employee. That is a new departure. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Solley) referred to the Factory Acts. That is an entirely different matter. That arises under the Statute Law when you make regulations covering what shall be certain conditions within a factory and, very rightly, if anybody breaks those conditions the Statute then provides for penalties. This is a scheme which will settle the rights and the liabilities of the employers and the dockers contractually, and one, therefore, ought to approach a matter of that kind not with any idea of enforcing penalties. I quite agree that one should have regard to Subsection (4) in the first instance.
What one objects to then is that, in allowing Subsection (4) to stand, you get this extraordinary situation, that if perchance a scheme provides for certain matters to be an offence they shall be an offence in one port but not in another. They may be an offence, in part, in a port with regard to certain documents but not an offence in the same port with regard to other documents and I really was surprised to find that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne saw no objection whatever to a man being a criminal in one place but quite a respectable uncriminal person in another. That does not sound to me the right way to look at it. The anomaly of London was very rightly referred to by previous speakers. It is a very awkward anomaly but, under certain circumstances, a man can be regarded in London as having committed an offence which, if he were outside London, it would not be, and it is one against which we rebel. One likes to say that the law is a general law, applying to all of us, whether we are in one part of the country or in another, and that we should all know precisely where we are. A man may be just outside the border of the county of London and not be guilty of anything, but let him step inside a yard, and he is guilty of an 126 offence without his knowing anything at all about it.
That is the trouble with regard to this proposal. Look at what may happen. As a result of the Minister having made a scheme and having as regards one part of the port not made any declaration at all anybody can then sabotage that scheme and not be guilty of any offence. He makes a scheme with regard to any port and he makes this declaration that it shall be an offence, and that persons offending within that part of the port will be liable to be sent to prison for three years. It is all very well for my hon. Friend to say that there are all kinds of safeguards here, first, that it must be agreed to by the dockers' representatives and by the employers. It is all very well to say that the Minister may see to this, but he may not. He and I have been long enough here to know that very often things of this kind can slip by without anyone noticing them. I do not suppose that much consideration can be given to this between now and the Third Reading. Will not the Minister consider it still further to see whether we cannot get uniformity? We are all agreed that there should be an end to the casualness of labour from which the dockers have suffered, but we are very much afraid of using the criminal law to enforce what may be merely contractual relationships.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)
The House has had the advantage of listening to five hon. Gentlemen who are members of the legal profession. Three have been supporting the Government and two have been for the Amendment. I think that the argument has been misconceived, if I may say so, as a layman, who has acquired a mantle of virtue since the last time I was speaking at this Box on this question. Let us look at the thing in a practical way. We desire to decasualise the dock industry.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am glad that the Liberal Party agree with that proposal. Having approved of a scheme the question we have to face is: How are we to protect it? It is not use saying we are in favour of decasualisation, if we leave wide open the doors by which decasualisation can be destroyed. We must have some penalties to apply to the people who 127 would take us back to the bad old days. What the Members of the Liberal Party are suggesting is that there should be no criminal penalty. If there is no criminal penalty, I then turn to the objections raised on this side of the House that you will have a far worse penalty—an unrestricted penalty. That is an argument between the lawyers on both sides of the House—about which I am not competent to express an opinion.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
That was my impression, that no one had denied it. I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) was getting up to deny it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I do not want to start another legal argument. We want to decasualise the dock industry, and we want to protect the schemes against active sabotage and organised black legging. We say that we must have this penalty in order to give that protection. The question is raised, that what is an offence in one port would not be an offence in another port. My own view is that wherever there is a decasualisation scheme in any port in this country—and I hope that there will be only one scheme—this penalty shall apply to anybody in any port who seeks to destroy the scheme. That is the line we are taking in this matter. That is the view that will actuate my right hon. Friend when he comes to consider the scheme, or schemes, that may be submitted to him. It is all very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman for Montgomery to shake his head.
§ Mr. C. Davies
If that is what is desired why not put it in the Bill? It is all very well to say that the Bill is left in a vague form, and that we can leave it to the very good intentions of the Minister. The Bill may become law, but Goodness knows, whether the Minister will be there to administer it. If that is the Government's intention then why do they not put it in the Bill?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I am afraid that the hon. and learned Gentleman has not appreciated the real circumstances of this scheme and this Bill. The schemes are to 128 be drafted by the industry and are to be submitted under the terms of this Bill to the Minister. We are leaving it to the industry to put forward their own propositions. We say, "Here is the power that you want to protect your scheme." We are inviting them to put forward these propositions in this way: If they put forward a scheme that is not capable of protection, my right hon. Friend will take the necessary steps and suggest that they must protect their scheme by making the provisions set out in Subsections (4) and (5). We say that the Liberal Amendment is one that will wreck the policy of decasualising the dock labour in this country, and, on behalf of the Government, I have to request the House to reject it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ CLAUSE 2.—(Making, variation and revocation of schemes.)
§ Mr. Isaacs
I beg to move, in page 2, line 42, leave out Subsection (2), and insert:(2) If at any time before the first day of October, nineteen hundred and forty-six, no scheme is in force for any port or in relation to any class or description of dock workers, the Minister may, on the joint application of such bodies of persons as are mentioned in the last foregoing Subsection, prepare a scheme for the port or in relation to the class or description of workers in question.'' (3) If at any time on or after the said first day of October no such scheme is in force, the Minister may prepare such a scheme if it appears to him unlikely that a scheme for the port and relating to the class or description of dock workers in question will be prepared under Subsection (1) of this Section within a reasonable time.I would ask permission to refer, at the same time, to my Amendment, in page 3, line 8, leave out "before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven." During the discussions upstairs there was considerable debate on the question of date. I gave an undertaking that I would definitely put down an Amendment to make a change in the date, and, at the same time, a change in the approach as suggested. The Amendment does both these things. It not only changes the date, but gives some latitude to the Minister and extends the time, should he be satisfied that the industry is, in fact, preparing a scheme. We wanted to avoid the Minister having to state a definite date, when possibly the industry might, within a few more days or weeks, have actually completed a scheme.
129 I think it would help the House if I read out the position as it would appear after these Amendments are adopted. First, the Dock Labour Corporation's schemes will be preserved intact until 1st July, 1947. They can, of course, be revoked earlier, if a permanent scheme is ready to take their place before that date. No gap can, however, occur assuming that a permanent scheme is introduced by 1st July, 1947. This is provided in Clause 3. Secondly, the War Transport schemes on the Mersey and the Clyde are not statutory and cannot be given statutory force in the Bill. Instead it is provided that at any time when there is danger of one of these schemes breaking down the Minister may replace it by a scheme introduced under a short procedure. This would enable him, if necessary, to convert the existing arrangements into a temporary statutory scheme at short notice thus avoiding any possibility of a gap. This is provided for in Clause 2 (3) and in paragraph (4) of the Schedule.
Thirdly, up to 1st October, 1946, the Minister may prepare a permanent scheme or schemes if the two sides of the industry ask him to do so. Thus if the two sides at an early date reach the conclusion that they cannot themselves agree on a scheme they can ask the Minister to prepare his own scheme. This is provided in the new Clause 2 (2). Fourthly, after 1st October, 1946, the Minister may prepare a scheme if he thinks it is unlikely that a joint scheme will be put up to him within a reasonable time. He will thus have nine months if need be to get his scheme into operation before the existing Corporation's schemes expire in July, 1947. This is provided for in the new Clause 2 (3).
The suggestion has been made that we should have brought this date much earlier in the year, while other sections of the industry were urging that we should retain the date originally fixed. I hope that the compromise suggested, with the change of approach in the Amendment, will meet the convenience of the House and fulfil the undertaking which I gave to the hon. Gentleman upstairs.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for going some way to meet the point which was put in the Committee stage upstairs. The original time in the Bill was Christmas, not of this year but of next year, and in an 130 industry in which there are as many difficulties and problems as the dock industry, it seemed an unconscionable long time for both sides to go on haggling about it between now and 12 months hence. For my part, I would have much preferred the date of 25th March to be put in. In my view three months is quite long enough to be able to decide whether there is any hope or not of the two parties coming together. But I have tried to spur the Government on so long and so often over the Bill that at this stage I am becoming a little tired, and perhaps am not pressing as much as I should. In those circumstances, I am prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
The right hon. Gentleman has certainly met us in a small way—a very small way, indeed. I do not know whether arguments from our side or proddings from his own produced that three months change. I hope that hon. Members will appreciate the position properly. These schemes are not starting when this Bill is passed. Most of them, if not all, are in operation, and have been in operation for some years. One cannot imagine that the different schemes which have been worked during the war in every port in the country, either under the national scheme or the Ministry of War Transport scheme, are to be materially altered in the schemes which are to be submitted to the Minister. They go in for every form of control of labour in all the ports, and how the scheme shall be worked; every separate scheme is comprised in a pamphlet which in itself requires a certain amount of study. One cannot think that, directly this Bill is passed, they are all to be changed, that everybody concerned is going to get together and study them again, line by line, and alter the conditions, and by October next submit them to the Minister, who may or may not accept them. I am astorished, in view of what we were told—though I did not believe it—about what the Government could do directly they got into power. What have we got? Housing was to be solved in 14 days; great Measures were to be introduced very quickly. Yet, when we come to this one thing where there is practical work to be done, it is going to take 12 months or more—I am going back to when this matter started—before the schemes themselves can be put before the House. I 131 do not think the House should be satisfied with October. If the matter were left to a free vote, the House would want a little more energy and ginger put into the method of dealing with this question. If October is to be taken, what happens in August and September? If schemes have to be put forward by 1st October, the first real attempt to get down to it will be made late next summer. Bearing in mind that schemes do exist, which require very little arrangement to bring them in line with this Bill, I think the Minister should knock off another three months, and make the date June, instead of 1st October.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 8, leave out:
before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven." —[Mr. Isaacs.]
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I beg to move, in page 3, line 37, at end, insert:( ) In this Section references to a port include references to part of a port.This is a small point, to link up this part of the Bill with the part already passed. There is a difficulty in some ports in saying where the port ends, and where the river begins, or where the canal begins and where the port begins. In order that we may have the power to fix our boundary line, this Amendment is being moved.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3. —(Continuation of existing schemes.)
§ Mr. Isaacs
I beg to move, in page 4, line 3, leave out from beginning to "enable," in line 4, and insert, "(2) Nothing in the said provisions shall."
This Amendment carries out the undertaking given in Committee that we would examine the Bill with a view to the words:'' Provided that nothing in the said provisions shall after the expiration of the said Acts …It was contemplated that this Bill should leave in existence the powers under certain emergency regulations. They would only remain for a short period and I appreciate the point made by the hon. Gentleman opposite that it would be a little cumbersome to keep these words in the Bill to cover a period of two or three 132 months. To that extent this is merely a drafting point, but it is a point which I thank the hon. Gentleman for having drawn attention to.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ SCHEDULE—(Provisions as to making of orders.)
§ Mr. Isaacs
I beg to move, in page 5, line 23, leave out from "published," to "and," in line 25, and insert:
This Amendment relating to publication was also an undertaking given on the Committee stage. It relates to publication in local newspapers. The principle of the Amendment was accepted before, with the undertaking that we would accept this slight variation.
- " (a) in the London Gazette, the Edinburgh Gazette, or both, according as the scheme relates to ports in. England, Scotland or both; and
- " (b) in such local newspapers, and in such other ways (if any), as appear to the Minister best suited for bringing the notice to the attention of persons concerned."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ This Amendment is consequential.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill now be read the Third time."
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Isaacs
The first thing I want to do is to express appreciation to hon. Members who have taken part in discussion upstairs, and here and who have drawn attention to obvious faults in the Bill, and helped us to make it more acceptable, understandable, and, we think, more useful. Many speeches have been made, some of which were controverted by one side or the other, but I thing everyone was animated by a desire to make it a good Bill. I am satisfied that the Bill will be of great value to the industry and, in the long run, to the country. It will enable decasualisation schemes to be brought in with the good will of both sides, in a way that will not be an imposition on the industry or cause an unreasonable cost on the goods.
I think it is rather an interesting point that the Third Reading of this Bill comes 133 today when both sides of the industry have agreed to recommend to their constituent bodies the acceptance of the recommendation of the Evershed Committee which was made last week. I can now disclose to the House, what will be officially disclosed elsewhere, that the parties reached agreement on practically all points outstanding, and referred the question of wages to this Committee which was set up, not as early as some Members may have wished, but at the appropriate moment when they reached the negotiations. That recommendation gives to the workers an agreement of 19s. a day, an increase of 3s. and, on a full week, of 16s. 6d. a week. At the same time, it carries a substantial improvement in piecework wages.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking on the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I will not go further except to say that it is rather appropriate that we should be giving the Bill a Third Reading on a day when the unions and employers have agreed on the matter.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I wish to express the hope that the settlement the Minister referred to will be an augury for the success of this Measure. We have done our best on the various stages of the Bill to fortify it in various directions. I think I may say that, on the whole, it is a better Bill now than when we started upon it. It is not so good as we should like it to be, but it is certainly improved.
I want to say one word on the question of these schemes. In the Bill as it now appears before the House, it is possible for schemes to be put up either by a single port, a group of ports, or all the ports in the country. Any of these three courses is possible, and I cannot be accused of speaking for the employer altogether when I say this—I think we ought to have a national scheme, the employers are by no means agreed whether we ought to have a national scheme or not. I do not think any other scheme is really going to be possible. I think if we try to tackle this problem of decasualisation on a parochial basis all that will happen is that one or two rich ports will have schemes, and the smaller ports will be left out altogether. Then all the difficulties re- 134 ferred to by hon. Members below the Gangway will arise, and there will be one type of scheme in one port, and another type in another port. I hope very much that the Minister, when he meets the industry, will emphasise the desirability of getting the general principles of a national scheme laid down. Having got the principles of a national scheme laid down, there is no reason why a great deal of local autonomy in the working of the different ports should not be allowed. At the moment, we have had the wage discussions, which have been now happily concluded. We had a meeting of the Committee of the National Joint Council discussing industrial conditions. The next thing is to get on with the decasualisation conditions, and as quickly as possible.
It is very difficult to enter into these discussions in the present atmosphere of uncertainty that exists. A statement has been made that these port authorities and ancillary services are to be brought under national ownership. I think the position there wants clarifying. I think it was Dr. Johnson who said that when a man knows he is going to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I naturally bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the point I was on was the desirability—having passed the Bill which calls upon the industry to send up schemes—of seeing that both sides of that industry meet at the earliest possible moment, and fully understand the basis on which they were negotiated. I will, therefore, content myself with saying that I hope both sides of the industry will be brought together at an early date to discuss this matter. I hope the Minister in talking with them will emphasise the need of discussing it on a national, rather than a parochial, basis.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibson (Kennington)
I do not wish to detain the House long but I think it is due from some of the Members on this side to express to the Minister our appreciation of the efforts which have resulted in this Bill. Speaking as one who has had a connection with one of the unions concerned for more than 30 years, 135 I am quite sure that the men in the industry will regard the work done by the House on this Bill as of first-class value which will enable them to have a little better existence than they have had during past years. I would probably not have risen but for the fact that the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) has referred, two or three times, to the fact that he does not speak for the employers. I could not help reflecting that apparently he does not speak for the Tory Party either, because there has not been here today more than a half a dozen Members on those benches. I feel that if there are any thanks due, they are due to the Minister of Labour and the Government for a good piece of work.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.