HC Deb 13 May 1968 vol 764 cc847-8
23. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will instruct Sir Jack Scamp to carry out a special inquiry into labour relations in Liverpool Docks in order to avoid a boycott, by the merchants and shippers to Australia and New Zealand, of the port of Liverpool which will lead to large-scale permanent unemployment.

Mrs. Castle

Good progress is being made in implementing Sir Jack Scamp's recommendations for increasing productivity following the inquiry which he has already carried out last October. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board has been assured by Australian and New Zealand shippers of their desire to foster trade through the port.

Sir C. Osborne

Is not the right hon. Lady aware that only a few days ago Australian and New Zealand shippers said that because of strikes in Liverpool they would be driven to taking their trade from that port? Is she aware that if that were to happen it would mean the death of the port? Will she do something to put a stop to these strikes and stop this trade being taken away from Liverpool?

Mrs. Castle

The hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the matter does not tally with mine. I understand that the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, which has considered this matter, has stated that it is highly unlikely that there would be a boycott of the port by Australian and New Zealand shippers. Officials of the Board recently visited Australia and New Zealand and received general assurances about their desire to foster trade through the port.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) is talking a lot of exaggerated nonsense; that there are no more strikes in Liverpool than in any other port in this country and that the problems of the port of Liverpool arise from the bad working conditions there, conditions which are now being tackled for the first time on the basis of the Government's policy in relation to the ports?

Mrs. Castle

Yes, Sir, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his recognition of the fact that intervention has in this case had a very successful outcome.

Mr. Fortescue

Would not the right hon. Lady agree that the Seaforth Container Dock Scheme, which is now being actively developed with the full support of the Government, will in the long run inevitably lead to a large reduction in employment in the Liverpool docks?

Mrs. Castle

From my discussions with those concerned in Liverpool, when I was Minister of Transport, I am certain that the Seaforth development is essential for the continuance of Liverpool as a major port.