HC Deb 14 March 1989 vol 149 c277
11. Mr. John Townend

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on his proposals for the future of the national dock labour scheme.

Mr. Nicholls

The Government's position on the scheme remains unchanged, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirmed in the House on 19 January 1989 at columns 481–82 of the Official Report.

Mr Townend

My right hon. Friend will not be surprised that I am very disappointed with his reply. Does he agree that the national dock labour scheme is one of the few remaining relics of the corporate state established by the post-war Labour Government, which has been demolished by this Government? Does he accept that northern ports, like Hull and Liverpool, are able to prosper and compete, that, with the opening of the Channel tunnel, it is essential that they be able to operate in a free market without restrictive practices, and that that will not be possible unless he abolishes the scheme?

Mr. Nicholls

Again I hear what my hon. Friend says, but I am afraid that I cannot do anything about having disappointed him. I have announced what the Government position is, and I confirm that it has not changed.

Mr. Moate

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, as has already been said, jobs are being lost and that industrial investment in waterside-related schemes is being positively discouraged? He has said that the Government position is unchanged. In view of the overwhelming arguments for abolition of this archaic dock labour scheme can he do the House the courtesy of explaining why that position is unchanged?

Mr. Nicholls

My hon. Friend describes the argument as overwhelming. That is his analysis, but I think that he will agree that there are very few situations in which the arguments are that easy.

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