HL Deb 13 March 1952 vol 175 cc717-9

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, a Question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether Her Majesty's Government can now state the membership of the Ports Efficiency Committee.


Yes, my Lords. It will be remembered that when we were debating the Motion introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, last Tuesday, on cargo handling in the ports, I announced that it was the Government's intention to set up this Committee. I am glad to say that the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has accepted my invitation to be Chairman. The other members of the Committee will be:

Sir Ernest Murrant, K.C.M.G., M.B.E., Chairman of Furness Withy and Co.,

Mr. Frank Pope, C.I.E., a Member of the British Transport Commission,

Sir Douglas Ritchie, O.B.E., M.C., Vice-Chairman of the Port of London Authority,

Major Roland Thornton, M.C., J.P., Deputy-Chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and

Mr. Tom Yates, C.B.E., General Secretary of the National Union of Seamen.

The Secretary is Mr. S. R. Walton of the Ministry of Transport. I understand that the Committee will be holding its first meeting early next week.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that answer. I believe that I am correct in saying that the only representative of the trade union movement on that Committee is Mr. Yates, a member of the National Union of Seamen. Mr. Yates is a most Admirable man and one in whom everyone can have confidence, but there are no fewer than five trade unions directly connected with the work of the docks. May I ask the noble Lord whether those unions were consulted and whether they had any wish to have representation on this Committee?


My Lords, I consulted the Trades Union Congress, and they themselves suggested Mr. Yates to me as the one comprehending all that is required on this Committee.


My Lords, without in any way criticising this board—for I think it is an excellent board—I must say that the limitation to one trade union representative in a body with a total membership of about six seems to be a little one-sided. We want to get not only the recommendations of this excellent board but also a feeling of satisfaction amongst the trade union side that they are amply represented on the board. It strikes me that the proposed representation by only one man is rather inadequate on a board of six. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to reconsider the matter with a view to adding to the trade union representation upon the board.


My Lords, I certainly thought that one trade union representative amongst six in a Committee that will have to comprehend so many angles of this rather intricate job within the ports was satisfactory. It having been put thus to the T.U.C they nominated one. Mr. Yates is not actually a representative of the dock workers but of the Seamen's Union of which he is General Secretary, and it seemed to me that he could represent the views and the requirements of the trade unions concerned. It is a small Committee and we need to have all the experience we can muster within that Committee. I think that has been achieved by having it constituted as I have stated.


My Lords, if I may say one further word, it is that I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to look at this matter again. It was agreed in all parts of the House on Tuesday that the essential thing is to get smooth working in the docks and good co-operation by all sides of the industry. I cannot help feeling that the dockers themselves are likely to feel left out in the cold and very much slighted by the fact that there is no representation of one of their unions on the Committee.


To make it quite clear, let me say that I did, at first, secure the nomination of one who would have been very representative of the dock workers, but a little later it was found that he was unable to give the time necessary, and also that perhaps his health is not too good. Therefore, I referred the matter to the T.U.C. The T.U.C. proposal to me was one which I was able to accept as comprehensive of the labour movement and covering all that is within the jurisdiction of the Committee.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that the interests concerned will be grateful to Her Majesty's Government for their choice of a chairman for this Committee and also for the inclusion of Sir Douglas Ritchie among its membership?

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