HC Deb 25 March 1971 vol 814 cc848-50
3. Mr. James Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the failure of the second stage of the Devlin proposals to produce the productivity figures necessary to maintain United Kingdom ports in full employment and efficiency.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Paul Bryan)

Devlin II agreements have been introduced in six major ports, mostly fairly recently. Port employers in five of these claim that the agreements have not adversely affected throughput. In the London Enclosed Docks there has been a fall in the amount of conventional cargo handled, and I am informed that the industry is examining how this position can be improved.

Mr. Hill

I thank my hon. Friend for that statement. Will he confirm that Devlin stage II has been more efficiently implemented by the Southampton Docks and Harbours Board, the employers and the dock employees? Can he give some comparative figures?

Mr. Bryan

Reports from Southampton are certainly good. There is good cooperation, and the traffic is increasing. I see in this morning's Lloyd's List that Mr. Stringer, the dock director, has sent a message to the dock workers and staff saying that 1971 looks like being a record year for the port. Tees-side has also had very good results. I visited there the other day. I cannot give a comparison with all the other ports.

Mr. Heffer

Is the Minister aware that in Liverpool only this week an agreement has been finally reached with the union and the port employers to open the list for further dockers to be taken on, that this process is now going on, and that, I think, 780 new workers will be taken on? Is he also aware that the number of applications was about 3,000 or 4,000—that may be an understatement—owing to the very high unemployment on Merseyside, and that this is obviously the result of Government policy?

Mr. Bryan

I cannot accept that it is the result of Government policy, but it is obviously a disturbing situation. I can only say that my Department has it very much in mind.

Mr. Ogden

Now that the legislative programme of the Minister's Department is a little less, as the Industrial Relations Bill has gone to the other place, will the Minister take the opportunity of asking his right hon. Friend to visit some of the major docks in the weeks ahead? I am certain that Merseyside will give him a sincere, although warm, welcome.

Mr. Bryan

I cannot say that the work ahead is such that my right hon. Friend will be altogether slack, but I know of his very great interest in the ports. As I said, I visited Tees-side two weeks ago. We shall certainly keep our eyes on the situation, both personally and as a Department.

Mr. Rankin

The Question refers to United Kingdom ports. Can the hon. Gentleman say anything about the present position on Clydeside?

Mr. Bryan

I have nothing to report at the minute.

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