HC Deb 25 April 1950 vol 474 cc784-6
Mr. Eden

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any further statement to make on the strike position in the London docks?

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)

Normal work is proceeding at Tilbury, but elsewhere the number of men not working this morning is 13,489. Some 2,000 personnel drawn from the Services are working. Contrary to a report in an evening paper last night, the lightermen are not taking part in this stoppage and I have been asked by the General Secretary of the Union to give publicity to this fact. I gladly do so. I also desire to call the attention of the House to the statement issued yesterday by the London Dock Labour Board. I would join with the Board in the hope that the men will reconsider their attitude, which can bring no profit to themselves but will simply incur loss and hardship all round.

Mr. Eden

In spite of the partly reassuring opening of that statement, is it not a fact that the position is worse today than it was yesterday, that another 1,000 men are out and there are now about 90 ships idle? Is the Minister convinced that adequate steps have been taken to bring the warning to which he has just drawn the attention of the House to the notice of the men, before the position gets even worse?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, Sir, and the Board have this morning expressed their thanks for the assistance we gave to them in making this warning well known. So far as the situation is concerned, the fact is that as the soldiers moved into the dock where part of the staff were working those men came out. There are still a number of men working in the other docks, and the same may occur there. But the Government are not leaving the matter at this 2,000 now at the docks. They intend to carry on and see that the working of the port is fully maintained.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Can the right hon. Gentleman enlighten the House on one point on which conflicting reports have been current? Has the expulsion of the three men from the Union ended their employment at the docks?

Mr. Isaacs

I could not answer that question without notice. I am sorry.

Mr. Mellish

Can my right hon. Friend make some comment in regard to the newspaper report about the lightermen? Was the paper asked to correct the report? Is he aware that these sorts of reports are causing a great deal of harm? Can my right hon. Friend make some comment about it?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, Sir. I have been informed that the attention of the newspaper in question was drawn to the fact that their statement was wrong, and that they were asked to correct it. They declined to do so.

Hon. Members

What is the name of the paper?

Mr. Isaacs

The "Evening News."

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the right hon. Gentleman not take the opportunity of expressing the gratitude of this House and the country to the troops for the vitally important work they are doing?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, that will be done in due course. We have only just started.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will transport facilities for Opposition Members who wish to help to unload the ships be available tomorrow afternoon?

Sir Herbert Williams

Has the right hon. Gentleman made inquiries of the Law Officers of the Crown, since last Thursday, as to whether this Strike is illegal?

Mr. Isaacs

Yes, Sir. I have made inquiries and the Law Officers' views have been communicated to me. At the moment I do not think it wise to express an opinion.


Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is it not rather extraordinary that the House of Commons should not be told whether this strike is legal or illegal?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot now go back to that question.

Mr. Churchill

May I venture to repeat to the right hon. Gentleman what we said the other day? Whatever differences there may be about the detailed handling of this matter, we shall give him our steady support.