HC Deb 07 June 1951 vol 488 cc1222-3
Mr. Peter Thorneycroft

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour if he has any statement to make on the strike of tally clerks in the London Docks.

Mr. Robens

The unofficial strike of ships' clerks which began on 4th June has spread this morning to include 1,400 men, 48 still being at work. The strike-is not supported by the dockers and stevedores, but it has rendered idle some 8,000 who were available for work this morning. The stoppage is in protest against the recruitment by the London Dock Labour Board of 80 additional clerks as part of the general addition of 1,500 men to the London Dock Workers' Register.

Efforts are being made by the two unions concerned in an endeavour to obtain an immediate resumption of work and allow any questions arising to be further considered through the appropriate machinery.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how far essential goods, such as food supplies, are jeopardised by this strike? Secondly, can he say what action is being taken, preferably through the trade union movement, to bring home to those who are concerned with work in the docks the immense damage which is done to the national effort, not merely by delay in delivering certain cargoes, but by the immobilisation of large quantities of shipping and their withdrawal from the sea lanes?

Mr. Robens

The position with regard to food in the port is not one for serious concern at the moment, but, of course, it could soon be so. I am keeping that matter under constant review. With regard to the knowledge of the men of the effect on the national economy of these disputes, I believe that is very well known. I am most anxious that we should always deal with these disputes through the machinery which has been set up and which is perfectly adequate. Those people who are not prepared to use the existing machinery are doing themselves and the nation a great disservice.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information about the number of ships affected today?

Mr. Robens

Yes, Sir. There are 79 ships idle, 11 are undermanned and 61 are fully manned.

Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison

Do not these constantly recurring strikes and troubles in the docks show that there is something basically wrong in the dockers' existing system of agreements?

Mr. Robens

No, Sir. I should not say that there was anything basically wrong with the present agreements. What is wrong is in the carrying out of those agreements.