HC Deb 05 February 1951 vol 483 cc1345-6
Mr. McCorquodale

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour if he has any statement to make about the dock strike.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)

Apart from Merseyside and Salford all ports are working normally. On Merseyside, out of a total register of 18,000 about 8,100 are on strike. The position in that respect is the same as on Saturday, but some 1,750 at Salford have stopped since work began this morning.

Mr. McCorquodale

What action has the right hon. Gentleman taken to impress upon the men the great necessity of honouring agreements freely entered into on their behalf? Further, what further action does he propose to take in view of Mr. Arthur Deakin's grave disclosures over the week-end and the fact that any extension of the stoppage must have a grave effect on our defence programme?

Mr. Bevan

I have been keeping in very close touch with the matter over the week-end. It is satisfactory that the efforts of the union have prevented an extension of the stoppage to the other ports, and I should have thought it absolutely essential that in circumstances like these the authority of the representatives of the union should in no way be impaired. We are all delighted that, so far, the rest of the docks have not been affected by the stoppage, and we are hoping that the men at Salford, Liverpool and Birkenhead will realise that the action of their colleagues elsewhere is a condemnation of their action.

Mr. Oakshott

Is it not a fact that this regrettable trouble, on Merseyside in particular, has been caused by elements playing on the dissatisfaction of the men at the slowness of the negotiating machinery, and would it not help if that could be speeded up so as to avoid this kind of trouble?

Mr. Bevan

The fact is that the other dockers have accepted the arbitration as satisfactory. I do not believe that it is desirable to exacerbate feelings in this matter.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is not a very bad example being shown to the dockers by the steel masters, who are organising an unofficial strike against an Act of Parliament?

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House of the details of the report quoted by Mr. Arthur Deakin over the week-end on the trouble caused in the London area by a person who came here specifically to cause a strike at the London docks?

Mr. Bevan

The article has been printed in a trade union journal. It is a very interesting article indeed, and throws considerable light on the dock strike of 1949. I am asking for wider circulation of the article.

Mr. Renton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the unloading of any perishable foodstuffs is being delayed by the strike, and, if so, what steps he is taking to ensure that the public are not deprived of them?

Mr. Bevan

I understand that the Ministry of Food are not at the moment apprehensive about the food position.

An Hon. Member

Everybody else is.

Mr. Collick

Would it not be far better to leave the dispute between the union and the men?

Mr. Bevan

That is why I have said what I have. It is hardly wise for the Government to intervene when, obviously, the men themselves are putting matters right.

Mr. Nigel Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what steps, if any, he is taking or is prepared to take to try to eliminate from the docks Communist influence and infiltration?

Mr. Bevan

Yes, Sir, the normal process of education.