HC Deb 08 March 1945 vol 408 cc2196-8
11. Captain Gammans

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on the strike in the London docks.

Mr. Bevin

Yes, Sir. The strike was started at the Royal Docks by some 500 stevedores, and spread rapidly. I am glad to say that the men at Tilbury have resumed work this morning. The main body of dockers has decided to resume work when the stevedores resume and the Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers are meeting this morning with a view to securing a resumption of work forthwith. The immediate cause of the dispute was the transfer of the place of proof of attendance to an office inside the Royal Docks. The existing huts used for this purpose were regarded as unsuitable. Another question which has caused grave anxiety throughout January was the increase of absenteeism at the Royal Docks and it became necessary for those responsible to deal with it. Happily however this did not apply to the rest of London. The strike is completely unjustifiable. The machinery of the National Joint Council for the Dock Industry, which was established following the Shaw inquiry twenty years ago, is both capable and adequate to deal with any legitimate grievance in a constitutional way and it should have been used and the war effort not impeded by this reckless act. The Government have taken all the necessary steps to deal with cargoes required for operational purposes and to safeguard civilian supplies at home. As there is an opportunity now of complete resumption and I have undertaken that an inquiry will be held into the alleged grievances, I would ask to be excused from saying any more at present.

Mr. Thorne

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us the difference between the two calling-on stations?

Captain Gammans

Is it not a fact that the food situation in London will be very seriously affected if the strike continues?

Mr. Bevin

No, Sir. Steps have been taken to feed London. It is the duty of the Government to see that action of this kind does not interfere with supplies during war-time. Therefore, I do not fear any consequences under that head.

Mr. Foster

Is the Minister satisfied that the employers have themselves used the machinery which is set up for settling disputes, and that they are not guilty of some prolongation of this dispute?

Mr. Bevin

I can assure my hon. Friend, from my experience of the joint council machinery which I used for over 20 years, that any problem connected with the dock industry can be discussed within hours, if necessary. Therefore, if there had been feeling about this matter, the local committee in the region should have been summoned, and should have dealt with the thing right away, with a right of appeal to the National Council.