HC Deb 22 February 1965 vol 707 cc6-8
6. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Labour what have been the results of the recent representations he made to the dock workers to help to clear congestion in the Port of London.

Mr. Gunter

Following my talks with trade union officials at the end of last year, the Transport and General Workers' Union took prompt action to bring the facts of the situation to the attention of its members and the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers Union held a meeting of its members. In most of the London docks, however, the men, while already working overtime during the week, were unwilling to work at week-ends.

Mr. Lewis

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there has been any improvement in recruitment into the dock labour force; and whether he expects to take any steps to improve recruitment in advance of the report we expect? Can he also say when he is likely to have that report?

Mr. Gunter

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the congestion at the London docks has eased since the end of 1964. As to his second point, we would, of course, like to see weekend working because if ships are to keep their sailing times there is an inevitability about working docks over the weekend. But do not let it be forgotten that these men are already working considerable overtime during the week, and we need to be very careful before entering into judgment on them if, like the rest of us, they want a weekend off. I should not like to give a precise date when the report may be expected, but the earlier the better.

Mr. Godber

The Minister will no doubt have seen, as others have, reports in the Press of the possibility of steps being taken by unofficial leaders to try to prevent or discourage workers from working ordinary overtime. Are any steps being taken by the unions or by the Ministry to try to prevent this measure from achieving the same success that, unfortunately, attended those people's efforts in regard to weekend working?

Mr. Gunter

I have read reports about the proposed action. I do not know whether the situation will arise or not, but the unions are doing all they can to prevent it arising.

27. Mr. Hamling

asked the Minister of Labour what response has been made by port employers to appeals for harder work, increased overtime, including Sunday working, and improved planning, to help to clear congestion in the Port of London.

Mr. Gunter

I have made no appeal to port employers. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has had discussions with port employers and port users with a view to securing improved flow of cargoes through our ports.

Mr. Hamling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am surprised that, appeals having been made to the workers, none has been made to the employers? Is he further aware that there have been occasions in recent weeks in the Port of London where men have reported to work on a Sunday but, due to the inability or the unwillingness of employers to organise the job properly, have been sent home because there was no work to do?

Mr. Gunter

As I indicated, the employers have been meeting my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. I agree that the fault is on both sides. I am not arguing that. On the labour question, I await what Lord Devlin's Committee has to say on the sort of thing which my hon. Friend has put before the House this afternoon.

Sir C. Osborne

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that generally Sunday working is unsatisfactory and uneconomic and that when men have done six or five hard days' work they are entitled to a day's rest and that we get better results from a shorter working week if the week is properly organised? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind?

Mr. Gunter

I have been preaching that gospel for a long time.

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