HC Deb 30 November 1951 vol 494 cc1982-3

3.54 p.m.

The Minister of Labour (Sir Walter Monckton)

I beg the indulgence of the House to make a further statement on the dispute in the lighterage industry in the Port of London.

After careful consideration of the results of my discussions with the two sides of the industry, of which I informed the House on Wednesday last. I have come to the conclusion that it will be to the advantage of both the employers and the trade unions if an authoritative decision is given on the points at issue between them on the pay claim. The unions have made it clear that they are ready to enter into discussion with the employers on certain modified proposals formulated in the course of the talks with my Department. The employers have said that, whilst they are not prepared to enter into discussions except on the basis of the report of the committee of investigation, they would be prepared to submit the points at issue for arbitration.

In these circumstances, as the dispute had been reported to me by the employers under the Industrial Disputes Order, I have decided to send the matter forthwith to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal for an award. The employers have accepted my view that the terms of reference should be based on the modified proposals.

I have hitherto been reluctant to take this step as it does not provide the opportunity for discussion on measures for improving the efficiency and productivity of the industry as contemplated by the committee of investigation. But I hope that when this matter is settled the good relations which normally characterise this industry will permit of friendly discussions on these points, which, I am sure, are recognised to be of common interest.

Lighterage is an ancient craft vital to the smooth working of the Port of London. The industry has a responsibility to the Port its serves and to the general public, whose interests must be paramount. I trust that, in discharge of that responsibility, the need for normal working to be resumed without delay will be recognised.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I do not think that it is really very useful on these occasions if very much is said, but I am quite sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends join in the hope expressed in the last sentence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

May I ask the Minister a question? Who are the employers to whom he refers?

Sir W. Monckton

There are a number of different employers. It is not, of course, the Dock Board who employ lightermen in the Port of London.