HL Deb 11 July 1966 vol 276 cc19-68

3.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Before I launch myself on my speech, I should like to apologise to your Lordships in advance if I should happen to be absent towards the end of the debate. I have to go abroad tomorrow on duty, and for this reason I may have to leave to make certain arrangements.

My Lords, the Bill falls into three parts. The first part will introduce a system of licensing of port employers. The second part deals with welfare amenities for dock workers. The third part incorporates various provisions relating to the powers of harbour authorities and the National Ports Council which are designed to improve the efficiency of port operation. I should like to discuss these three parts of the Bill in turn.

The provisions dealing with the licensing of port employers have their origin in the Report on the Port Transport industry produced last year by the Committee under Lord Devlin. The basic recommendation of the Devlin Report, as your Lordships will recall, was that the time had come to do away with the remaining casual features of employment in the docks. Of course the Dock Labour Scheme, which we have had since 1947, was itself a major step away from the completely casual conditions in the docks which existed before the war. But the system of employment of dock workers as we now have it under the Scheme is still essentially casual in that the greater part of dock workers have no single regular employer. They are allocated from day to day by the Dock Labour Board to the different stevedoring employers in the port. They may well be employed by a different employer on every day of the week, and if there is no work for them, they stay in the pool and their earnings suffer in consequence. In these circumstances, as the Devlin Report showed, it has not proved possible to build up stable relations between management and men. Casual conditions have produced casual attitudes on both sides, and the result has too often been bad industrial relations, poor working conditions, restrictive practices and a low level of efficiency.

Your Lordships may have imagined, as I did, that this system, which must stretch back to the days of the Industrial Revolution, would have gone upon the passage of the 1946 Act; but it is still there, and I am sure your Lordships will agree that it must go, and go soon. To achieve this end the Devlin Report recommended the complete abolition of casual employment and the introduction of a system of permanent employment under which all dock workers would be allocated permanently to a particular employer and would be regularly employed by him. The Devlin Report recognised that such a system would be feasible only if a drastic reduction in the number of employers could be secured. At the time of the Report, there were some fourteen hundred registered employers of dock workers—many of them small, many employing dock workers only sporadically. If the system of casual employment is to be ended completely, it is clear that there will have to be a radical change here, and we shall have to reach a position where dock work is undertaken by a greatly reduced number of employers, leaving substantial undertakings only.

Quite apart from the problem of achieving an end to the casual system, it has been clear for years that the multiplicity of port employers was one of the main reasons why the level of port efficiency generally has been un- satisfactory. With large numbers of employers, some with only a tenuous connection with the docks industry, free to operate in any part of their port with no real stake in its efficient operation, you are bound to get great fragmentation of responsibility for the handling of cargoes, with consequent delays and inefficiency and an inadequate utilisation of modern equipment. For these reasons, as far back as 1962 the Rochdale Report was recommending a drastic reduction in the number of employers to be brought about by means of a licensing system. It is this motive which lies behind the licensing provisions in the Bill.

The introduction of a licensing system for port employers is only one element in the action needed to carry out the recommendation of the Devlin Report that causal employment should be brought to an end. It will also be necessary to revise the Dock Labour Scheme to adapt it to a system of permanent employment. The Minister of Labour recently published the draft of a Statutory Order to revise the Scheme in this way, on lines which were agreed in principle with both sides of the industry. While there is agreement on the general objective so far as revision of the Scheme is concerned, objections have been lodged to some of the particular provisions of the draft Order by organisations in the industry, and these are at present the subject of an inquiry which the Minister of Labour has appointed Sir George Honeyman to carry out, in accordance with the procedure laid down in the relevant Act of 1946; that is the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act 1946. Sir George Honeyman has completed hearings on these objections and is now preparing a report.

Besides revision of the statutory Dock Labour Scheme, a system of permanent employment will call for extensive changes in the terms and conditions of employment of dock workers and in working practices in the docks. These matters have been the subject of intensive negotiations on the National Modernisation Committee for the industry set up by the Minister of Labour last year under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Brown. Lord Brown's Committee have covered a great deal of ground in working out the necessary changes, but it has not yet proved possible to reach agreement on certain key issues affecting the revised wages structure which will be necessary. A Committee under Lord Devlin has now been set up to help in resolving these matters. That Committee has received submissions from the organisations concerned and will shortly be making its report to the Minister of Labour. That, then, is the general setting of the licensing provisions in Part I of the Bill.

I should now like to mention briefly the main points of those provisions. They will apply to the ports listed in Schedule 1 to the Bill, which are the ports at present covered by the Dock Labour Scheme. It is in these ports that full decasualisation will be introduced by means of the revision of the Scheme following the Honey-man inquiry, and it is here, therefore, that the basic need for a reduction in the number of employers arises. The Dock Labour Scheme can, of course, be extended to cover ports which at present are outside it, and this is one of the issues which the Honeyman inquiry has been examining. If any new ports were to be brought within the scope of the Scheme, it would be the intention to bring them also within the scope of the licensing provisions, and the Minister of Transport has power to add them to Schedule I by means of an order made under Clause 2 of the Bill.

Schedule 1 sets out the bodies which are to act as licensing authorities for each port, and these are, in general, the existing port authorities for the ports in question. The decision to give the licensing functions to port authorities was most carefully considered by the Government and thoroughly discussed with the industry. In the Government's view, the proper exercise of the licensing function will be fundamental to the efficiency of the port concerned. It is therefore right that the port authority, which carries responsibility for the overall efficiency and financial viability of its port, should also be responsible for licensing; and the port employers themselves have accepted this.

I would draw your Lordships' attention to Clause 4(3) which sets out the criteria which the licensing authority must have in mind in considering whether to grant licences. The criteria set out in Clause 4 follow closely the recommendations of the Devlin Report. They would require the licensing authority to have regard to the maximum number of employers compatible with the efficient working of the port, making due allowance for the need for specialist services of various kinds. The licensing authority would also have to have regard to each employer's ability to provide efficient management, to take on as permanent workers a reasonable quota of the workers on the register in the port concerned, and to avoid the need for excessive transfers of his workers to work temporarily for other employers. Some degree of temporary transfer of this kind is likely to be necessary to meet fluctuations in the work; but, clearly, too much of it would defeat the whole object of decasualisation.

In the initial licensing operation, the licensing authority will make its decisions at one and the same time on all applications for licences in the port in question. The authority will notify these decisions to the applicants for licences and to the National Ports Council, and will at the same time state whether, and to what extent, the authority itself proposes to employ dock workers. It will then be open to applicants to appeal to the Minister of Transport against refusal of licence or against the conditions which the licensing authority proposes to attach to a licence, or against the authority's proposals as to the extent to which the authority itself will employ dock workers. These rights of appeal are contained in Clause 7 of the Bill. It will also be open to the National Ports Council to lodge with the Minister of Transport objections to the decisions of any licensing authority. If appeals or objections are made, the Minister of Transport will have the duty under Clause 51 to set up an inquiry to hear them. Following the inquiry, the Minister will have power to confirm or modify the decisions of the licensing authority.

Clause 5 of the Bill provides for licensing authorities to be able to attach conditions to licences. These may relate, broadly, to three matters. The first is the number of permanent workers who must be in the employment of each employer at the time licensing comes into force. The licensing authority has the duty, under subsection (4) of Clause 5, to attach conditions in this way so as to ensure that all registered dockworkers are allocated to permanent employment with particular employers. Secondly, the licensing authority may impose conditions as to the particular berths or parts of the port in which an employer may operate. This will help to introduce a more stable pattern of responsibility for cargo handling. Thirdly, conditions may be imposed as to the type of operations in which an employer may engage. This would be necessary in the case of specialist employers.

Licences may be granted for fixed terms of between three and seven years, and would not be revocable during their term except for serious breach of conditions of the licence, or where it emerged that the licence had been granted on the basis of false information. This is contained in Clause 11(1)(c). There will be a right of appeal to the Minister of Transport against the decision of the licensing authority as to the conditions to be imposed on a licence or its proposed duration, and against refusal to renew a licence on its expiry.

Clauses 13 to 19 provide for compensation to employers who are put out of business by refusal of a licence when licensing is first introduced, or by refusal to renew a licence in the future. The amount of compensation payments will be agreed between the licensing authority and the employer concerned—or by arbitration if there is failure to agree within six months—and the licensing authority will be empowered to recover the cost of payments by means of a levy on surviving employers in the port. This is dealt with in Clause 18. The levy on each employer will be assessed in proportion to the gross wages paid by him in the first year of licensing, and payment of the levy may be spread in instalments over a period of up to five years. These provisions have been discussed with the employers and are broadly acceptable to them.

My Lords, I now turn to Part II of the Bill, dealing with welfare amenities for workers. It is accepted by all concerned that the state of welfare provision in the docks is at present far below what it should be, and the Devlin Report, and other reports before it, emphasised the delays and neglect which have occurred in this matter in the past. We are determined that this shall be put right, and I suggest to your Lordships that the provisions in the Bill will be an effective means of securing this.

Work began on the problem of welfare provision in the docks as soon as the Devlin Report was published. The two sides of the industry, as represented on the Dock Labour Board, reached agreement on the general standards which should be aimed at, and the Board has now carried out a comprehensive series of surveys of the precise needs in each port. These surveys will form the basis of the schemes which will be prepared for each port by the Board under the provisions of Clause 25. As the Board prepares schemes, they will be submitted in draft to the Minister of Labour and a period will be allowed for objections by the employers or port authorities on whom obligations under the schemes would be placed. If objections are made, the Minister of Labour will set up an inquiry into them under the provisions of Clause 51 of the Bill, and will have power to amend welfare schemes in the light of the objections made before approving them.

It is intended that inspection of the provision and maintenance of amenities in accordance with the requirements of the schemes will be the responsibility of the Factory Inspectorate. The Inspectorate is empowered by Clause 32 to prosecute employers for failure to comply with the requirements of a welfare scheme. The Minister of Labour would also have power under Clause 29 to deal with failure to carry out the requirements of a scheme by authorising the Dock Labour Board itself to go in and make the necessary provision and charge the person responsible accordingly. The Minister will also be able, under Clause 30, to exercise the ultimate sanction of revocation of licence if there is serious or persistent failure on the part of an employer to meet his obligations under a welfare scheme. My Lords, these provisions are evidence of the Government's determination, which I think it is fair to say is shared not only by the unions but also by the National Association of Port Employers, to see that rapid progress is made with these matters, and that the decent working conditions are provided in the docks which should have been provided long ago.

I come now to Part III of the Bill, which contains a number of provisions relating to port efficiency which are of particular concern to my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. I need not, I think, deal with them in detail at this stage. Your Lordships will see that they confer broad powers on harbour authorities to operate inland clearance depôts, and to acquire by agreement stevedoring and other businesses in harbours. These powers will enable harbour authorities to play their proper part in the development of more efficient methods of cargo handling, and in the concentration of port operations in the bands of a greatly reduced number of port employers. This process of concentration is already going forward by means of voluntary mergers and amalgamations among the existing employers. There are further provisions which will facilitate the carrying through of port reorganisation on an estuarial basis by means of harbour orders and schemes under the Harbours Act 1964.

I should draw your Lordships' attention particularly to the provision in Clause 40. The Minister of Transport recently announced that she was proposing to make investment grants of 20 per cent. to statutory harbour authorities, and other persons carrying out harbour operations, in respect of their approved capital expenditure on certain harbour works and plant and mechanical equipment. The provision in Clause 40 is necessary to enable this financial assistance to be given to persons other than harbour authorities.

I should like, finally, to refer briefly to one provision in Part IV of the Bill. Clause 50 provides for disputes as to what constitutes "dock work" for purposes of the Dock Labour Scheme to be referred to the industrial tribunals which at present deal with disputes under the Industrial Training Act 1964 and the Redundancy Payments Act 1965. At present, disputes of this kind can be settled only by the Dock Labour Board bringing a criminal prosecution in a magistrates' court against the employer concerned. This has not proved satisfactory, and the machinery under Clause 50 will provide a better means of dealing with these problems.

My Lords, the Bill represents an important step forward in the Government's general policy of modernising the ports. It is, of course, by no means the end of the road. The Government are convinced that even wider measures of reorganisation are needed before the port transport industry can be put on a fully efficient basis, and our intention to pursue this was foreshadowed in our Manifesto at the last Election. We are pushing ahead with further study of the whole problem, but it will necessarily be some time before our wider plans can be brought forward and carried into effect. Meanwhile, we believe that the ending of the system of casual employment, through the provisions of the Bill and the revision of the Dock Labour Scheme, can bring a real and significant advance in the conditions of dock workers and in the efficiency of the industry in the immediate future. I therefore commend the Bill to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Winter bottom.)

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, our thanks are due to the noble Lord, Lord Winter bottom, for the skilful way in which he has piloted us through the shoals and reefs of this fairly complicated measure. If he is going abroad tomorrow on a naval occasion—and we all understand his need to leave the House before the termination of this debate—I hope he will be piloted equally successfully through any shoals and reefs which he may meet on that occasion.

I should like to echo the implied tribute which he paid to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin, and to the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale. They are, in a very true sense, the real authors of this Bill just as much as the Parliamentary draftsmen. Indeed I rather prefer their style. I doubt whether they would have perpetrated a sentence of the almost Proustian length which your Lordships can find in subsection (3) of Clause 6 of the Bill. It is well over 200 words long. It is not Proustian in complexity but it is in length.

The industry with which this Bill deals is a very old one; there are few older in the country. However, as I see it, unlike the great staple industries on which our Victorian prosperity was founded, like King Coal and King Cotton, it is also at this moment an expanding industry, and the Rochdale Report gives us a measure of the expansion needed. But, echoing what the noble Lord has said, expansion by itself is not enough. We must have expansion with efficiency. I fear that any detached observer looking around our ports must have serious doubts whether, by and large, they are well equipped at this present stage to meet the challenges with which they are faced, certainly judging by the standard of a nation like ours, which depends on sea borne trade, I suppose, more than any other industrial nation in the world with the possible exception of Japan.

Again, when we compare the services which most of our ports provide with those given by some of their great continental competitors, like Hamburg, Antwerp and Rotterdam, in certain respects the comparison, I think we must confess, is rather odious for us. I think we would agree that there is a great deal of leeway to be made up.

I would myself say, speaking from these Benches, that we have here a real opportunity. We live in a revolutionary age and one of the revolutions surrounding us is the revolution in our transport. There are all the new techniques of handling, bulk cargo: there is "roll on, roll off" and there are the new container techniques. Perhaps I could give your Lordships the measure of what these new techniques can imply. It was estimated at one of our great Northern ports that it takes something like 14 days on the average to load by conventional means 4,800 tons of cargo. Now it has been estimated that by using containers it is possible to handle 16,000 tons—8,000 tons discharged and 8,000 tons loaded—in 24 hours. That is a measure of the advantage which new techniques, well applied, can involve.

Therefore if we can harness these new techniques to our old ports, if we can direct the necessary investment to them, if we can do all this according to a rational and co-ordinated plan, if, not least, the Government can see that the necessary road and rail access to these ports is provided, then we have a real chance of leap-frogging our competitors. The mere fact that we have certainly been laggard in investment over the period since the First World War may in a way help, because it means we can now invest in what is most modern and most up-to-date; and it gives us in fact an opportunity of making our ports the best in the world. We believe that for this essentially maritime country we should set ourselves no more modest target. I recognise that the Bill which the noble Lord has explained to us deals with only a part of this particular problem, but I thought it right at the outset to emphasise the standpoint from which we on these Benches regard the problem as a whole.

The noble Lord has explained very cogently the main provisions of Part I of this Bill, which provides the essential framework, as I see it, for a successful attack on the problem of decasualisation in our docks. I would agree with him that this is entirely necessary. It is necessary from the humanitarian point of view. Casual labour has its degrading aspects. I was reading lately what a detached observer in 1916 said about the so-called daily call: The whole proceedings were horribly suggestive of a slave market. This is only barely less true in 1966, and also, as the noble Lord has said, it is very inefficient. Therefore, we need to attack the problem of casual labour and that can only be attacked by reducing the number of casual employers and creating responsible and substantial port employers. With all that we find ourselves in complete agreement with what the noble Lord has said.

In dealing with Part I of the Bill I would only say that there is one aspect of it which rather worries us and that is subsection (5) of Clause 5, the part of the Bill which lays down a maximum period of from three to seven years for the granting of a licence to the employer. We should not necessarily be chary of all foreign innovations. Sometimes they order things rather better across the Channel. One cross-Channel innovation in fact commended itself to Lord Rochdale and his Committee, and that was the system whereby port authorities lease quay space to individual ship owners and stevedoring companies. That is, I think, the system which obtains at those three great ports that I have mentioned, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg, and so far as I know it works pretty well. It has a number of obvious advantages. Many quayside installations can be exceedingly expensive; I have in mind things like cold-storage sheds, bulk discharging facilities, provision for roll-on and roll-off cargo, containers and the like.

It is surely a sensible thing to take some of the investment load here off the port authority, if we can, by attracting private capital. Again if you give the private operator a direct financial stake in the operation you exert a very strong and direct compulsion on him to invest wisely and well. Also, as your Lordships know, there is an increasing trend in modern industry in this country towards what is called vertical integration. Looked at in that light, cargo handling is very much part and parcel of the whole modern industrial process, especially when one thinks of the great bulk cargoes, like oil, grain, sugar and ore. It is surely a good thing that the company which really knows about these matters should be attracted to invest its own capital in these port operations. Apart from anything else it may mean that that company will not press the port authorities for more luxurious facilities than they really need. Giving the port employer concerned a direct financial stake in the operation encourages him to build up a highly professional, permanent decasualised labour force, itself with a stake in the operation. The National Ports Council have pointed out in their latest Report the immense importance which they attach to this principle. As they put it—and these are their words—it accords with placing real responsibility on the port employers for conditions and welfare of the labour employed at that berth and so with real decasualisation. But of course, as the Rochdale Report pointed out, if we are to opt for this system we shall need to have a system of long leases for these quayside facilities. If you have a system of long leases, then I do not see how that is compatible with a system of short licences of three to seven years duration foreshadowed in the Report. This particular point, which I do not apologise for labouring, was pressed very hard by the Opposition in another place, and I say straight away that the Government showed themselves not unsympathetic to some of the arguments which I have advanced. Nevertheless, at the end of the day they did not, or could not, see their way to accepting the possibility of longer licences. I hope that noble Lords opposite, who are progressive and flexible, will be more accommodating. I would emphasise that what I am asking for is not an automatic right. The right for which I am asking would be merely permissive. It would give the port authority the chance to give the port employer a greater security of tenure if in its wisdom it thought it wise to do so. Moreover, I am not asking for this greater security of tenure save in the case of really substantial investment. I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, when he winds up, may be able to give us some assurance in this respect. Otherwise—and I should be quite clear about this—I will have the unfortunate duty of putting down an Amendment at Committee stage. I would much prefer to save myself that duty.

I listened with care to what the noble Lord had to say about Part II of the Bill which deals with welfare and amenities. I have seen something at first hand of those amenities, or lack of them, in some of our ports. I notice that some members of Lord Devlin's Committee made an inspection of amenities in London and Liverpool and that they were appalled by some of the things they saw. I can only say that I am not surprised. At the same time, I think we should in fairness recognise that this is not an easy matter. It is not just a question of waving a wand and saying, "Let there be amenity!" In the past responsibilities in this field, as in so many other areas of the docks, have been rather fuzzy and blurred, and on occasions the better employers who have made proper provision for their workpeople have had the disheartening experience of not seeing those facilities properly used. Nevertheless, the time has clearly come for drastic action here and we cannot afford any more of the procrastination to which the noble Lord alluded. I can therefore assure him straight away that we are glad to welcome the provisions in Part II of the Bill.

In doing so, may I put two relatively minor questions to the noble Lord. The first concerns an important aspect of welfare in what is still I fear a pretty dangerous industry, and that is first aid. I think this was covered in the 1934 Dock Labour Regulations. However, the National Dock Labour Board has quite severely criticised the existing arrangements, in particular the lack of trained men, in a recent survey. I was rather surprised to learn of this, as I thought that on the first aid side the provisions were quite good. Can the noble Lord, when he replies, tell us what is his information on the subject and, if there are real deficiencies, can he also assure us that through the mechanism of this Bill or in some other way those deficiencies will be quickly remedied?

In addition, can he tell us what the programme for this work is going to be? When will the surveys which the National Dock Labour Board have in hand be completed? Will they take account of good industrial practice, not only here but also in the best ports overseas? Also, will the timetable encourage individual employers to get ahead with their own schemes? I know this may be rather difficult in the framework of a general scheme for the port, but it was a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Devlin, I think rightly, attached importance, given the importance of better employer-employee relations. So much for Part II.

I now come to Part III. The noble Lord has explained the purpose of Part III, and again it is one to which the Opposition fully subscribe. Its provisions are designed, as I see it, to ease and accelerate the work of port reorganisation and development, and to close some loopholes in the 1964 Act. I think that we are at one with the Government in wishing to drive all this forward as quickly as possible, and I would not dissent from what I would assume to be their view, that there may be loopholes even in Conservative legislation. But I should like to add that I am particularly glad to welcome Clause 35, the clause which gives harbour authorities the right to run inland clearance depôts. I am sure that these depôts will have a really important part to play in our national export effort in this age of the container and of the computer. If they are linked properly to the ports by road and rail, they will do as much as anything else to cure the constipation at our docks.

Can the noble Lord answer the only two questions that I have on this Part of the Bill? My first is this. Can he confirm that, while this Bill will give harbour authorities the right to run such depôts, and while in our view this is quite right, I am also right in thinking that it will do nothing to debar other people from running such depôts, if they are fit and willing to do so? Secondly, can he confirm that, in some cases at least, these depôts will be well inland? On Committee stage in another place, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said (I am quoting his words from column 154 of the Committee stage of June 21) that there was no proposition in the heads of anybody that the depôts should be sited many miles away from the ports. Can the noble Lord, Lord Champion, confirm that Mr. Swingler was in fact talking nonsense, and that this is precisely what the proposition may well turn out to be?

Before concluding, I should like to touch only on one omission from the Bill which has struck me—namely, that it contains no reference to training. We all recognise that industrial training and industrial efficiency go hand in hand and in the port industry the gap between what we see and what we should like to see in this respect is still much too wide, for all the efforts which have been made, both under the auspices of the National Dock Labour Board and by others. I confess that I should like to see (I am speaking personally here) an Industrial Training Board established under the 1964 Act. I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, pressed for this two years ago, and I am sorry that his advice was not taken at that time. In my view, such a Board would give impetus and coherence to the present still rather inadequate and too fragmented training effort. However, I recognise that at present there is opposition in a number of quarters to the establishment of such a Board, and that the pros and cons of this may have to be further threshed out. Meanwhileôand this is the question I should like to put to noble Lords—is there no way, here and now in this Bill, in which we could reinforce the training effort in our ports industry?

I hope that I have made it crystal clear that, whilst I have had one or two points of doubt or criticism to express, in general we welcome this Bill. I can certainly assure noble Lords opposite that they can depend upon us to speed its passage through your Lordships' House. I hope that they, for their part, will reciprocate, and that they will meet us on the one real substantive point, that of the length of the licence period, which I have pressed upon them.

I should like, in conclusion, to express one further hope. Our ports have had a long and proud but, also, alas! rather chequered history; and that history, especially since the war, has been disfigured by much industrial unrest. I believe that we may be on the verge of something like a break-through here, not only in organisation, not only in management, not only in new techniques of cargo handling, but also in a new attitude on the part of both management and labour to the problems of port employment. Luckily, there is at present a great deal of common ground over all this on both sides of the political fence.

We, for our part, accept the need for a National Plan; indeed, it was a Conservative Government which was the first to sponsor, in practice, such a plan. We, for our part, accept the need for an effective central co-ordinating body; indeed, it was a Conservative Government which set up the National Ports Council, and it is clear from the attitude taken by the Opposition in another place, when this Bill was considered there, that we should like to see that Council given rather sharper and stronger teeth, both financially and otherwise. We, for our part, accept the need for strong port authorities based on the estuarial principle. I personally should be quite prepared to look at larger groupings where that may be necessary. We also accept the need for a new deal for exporters and importers, more investment and more modern facilities. Finally, we accept, not least, the need for a new deal for the men who work in the ports; the need to decasualise, the need for better amenities and so on. Likewise, we accept the need for fewer port employers. We believe, for their part, that the Government accept the need for all this and, not least, the need—the quid pro quo, if I may so term it—for a new deal from the dockers themselves; for better trade union management, better industrial discipline, a greater readiness to try new methods and a readiness to abandon some of the old methods.

I feel myself that the Rochdale Report has charted here a course towards a much brighter prospect in our ports, and that what is now going on in and around them holds out the prospect of a really fruitful marriage between public and private enterprise. Lord Devlin's Report, this Bill and the follow-up to it, which the noble Lord mentioned, Sir George Honeyman's Report, and Lord Devlin's second Report, hold out the prospect of a real advance on the employment side.

Unfortunately, at this precise moment the Government have chosen to inform us that they accept, at least in broad principle, the Mikardo Report. A strong thread of nationalisation for the sake of nationalisation runs through that Report. Acceptance of it in principle can mean a lot, or it can mean less than a lot. At the worst, it could mean that the Government propose to pursue the principle of nationalisation throughout all this great industry to appease their Socialist consciences, or perhaps their Left Wing. If so, I am certain that much of the promise of the moment will be blighted, and much potential investment, especially private investment, nipped in the bud.

That is putting the worst of interpretations on the Government's quasi pronouncements on the subject. Being of a benevolent disposition, I always like to put the best of interpretations, not least on noble Lords opposite. But, at the best, unless the Government can make their good intentions clear without delay, they are going to create, and indeed to perpetuate, the uncertainty in and around our docks which we should be doing our utmost, on both sides of the political fence, to dispel.

I hope, therefore, that when he winds up the noble Lord will tell us rather more about the Government's real longer-term intentions, the wider plans that the noble Lord, Lord Winter bottom, rather coyly referred to. I hope he can tell us that they propose to introduce further legislation. I hope he can assure us that that legislation will at least embody the principle that there is a substantial place in our future port development for both public and private enterprise. If he can assure us that that broadly is their intention, I believe that he will be rendering as great a service to the future of our port industry as does, in its way, this almost wholly admirable Bill.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the House will agree that we have had two excellent opening speeches, so to speak, from both sides of the House. Those speeches have covered much of the detailed provisions of the Bill which is before the House; your Lordships owe the two opening speakers a debt, since as they have covered the Bill so adequately my speech will be much briefer than it otherwise would have been. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill. Our country is dependent upon its imports and exports, and the operating conditions in our docks leave very much to be desired. In fact, the conditions have been such that one wonders how they have done as well as they have with the equipment and the labour force available to them. Both the port authorities and the labour force deserve some credit—as well as some of the criticism which they have received—for having got through the job so well up to the present time.

There are, as I see it, three basic problems concerning the docks. First, the working conditions within the docks themselves; secondly, the obsolete layout, obsolete handling equipment, and sheds, and deficiencies in the equipment used on the docks, including inadequate lighting. The third serious problem—and this is not the fault of the docks, but is the result of the absence of any planning—is the bad access to the ports because of developments which have taken place around the docks over past years. This Bill, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has said, deals with the first problem, the working conditions within the docks. But let nobody be under any illusion that this Bill, in seeking to tackle the working conditions, will solve all the problems and make the docks a really efficient instrument for the transportation of our imports and exports.

However, although the other two aspects are equally vital, it is as well that we should start by seeking to improve the working conditions of the docks. A contented labour force, a force that is efficiently handled, can do much to overcome physical handicaps of operating conditions within any industry. Attitude to work depends not only on wages, but to a very large extent on security of employment and the conditions under which that employment is carried out. In our docks the system of casual employment and the absence of welfare facilities have led to a tough, aggressive and suspicious labour force. This attitude on the part of the docker has arisen very largely from the sort of conditions under which he is expected to carry out his work.

It is obvious that the Opposition, as we have heard from Lord Jellicoe, are going to support this Bill almost wholeheartedly, and we are most grateful for that. I think that everybody in the House will agree with the noble Earl's statement that the existence of some 1,400 employers within the docks does not lead to an efficient administrative machine making proper use of the available labour force. A man working at a trade who finds himself with a different employer every day cannot really give his whole heart to the job which he has to perform. The casualisation of the docks, which has gone on from time immemorial. and the fact that men are still called from the pool are surely undesirable features, and it is a good thing that this Bill will do away with them. One has to admit that there will be some opposition within the docks to the proposal to end the casualisation of the labour force. This system has meant that some men have fared a great deal better than some of their fellows, and this is perhaps not unknown in other walks of life. Those who have done well want to keep things that way, even though the ending of the system may mean that others will benefit.

The welfare side of the docks and the facilities for welfare have, as Lord Jellicoe has said, up to the present been appalling. It is wrong to expect any man to do his job when operating under the sort of conditions which face the docker, working, as he does, without reasonable toilet and washing facilities and without any first-aid or medical treatment being available. We have the opportunity offered us by this Bill to right these matters and to improve labour conditions overall.

I should like to conclude by mentioning Part III of the Bill. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Winter bottom and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made reference to the inland depôts. I referred a little earlier to the lack of reasonable access to ports. The inland depôts certainly can do much, in the present situation, to help remedy the delays and hold-ups which occur in the docks themselves. Equally, the containerisation and palletisation of cargoes gives an opportunity of improvement to a much greater degree than has existed before.

While the docks themselves have come in for a good deal of criticism, it must be said that importers and exporters have not been very helpful in the way in which they have prepared their cargoes for journeys in and out of the country. Anybody who has walked round the docks and who has seen the difficulties of handling will realise that much more can be done, before the goods are in fact consigned, to make handling by the dockers much easier. However, there has been some improvement in the way in which manufacturers, exporters and importers prepare their goods for shipment. If this sort of improvement extends to the inland depôts as well, then I am certain we shall do a great deal to make operations within the docks themselves flow more easily, even in the present difficult circumstances of access and exit. My Lords, I wholeheartedly support the Bill, and I am delighted that the Opposition are prepared to facilitate its passage.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, as one who has been closely connected with the ports industry for some years—and who, indeed, as a result, has a very keen interest in it todeclare—I thought I should like to say a few words on this Bill; but they can be very few because there is such obvious agreement all around your Lordships' House about its merits. That agreement is shared, I can assure your Lordships, by—I cannot dare to say everyone, but nearly everyone in the ports industry throughout the country.

I should like to make, if I may, only one controversial comment. I am not what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, would call a detached observer, but I hope I may say that I am a keen observer who came into the ports industry sufficiently late in life to approach it with a properly critical attitude; and I do think that too much is made of the alleged inefficiency of the ports industry in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, expressed surprise that the ports had done so well in the circumstances. Is it perhaps because the circumstances are not quite as bad as noble Lords have been led to believe? Of I course, there are plenty of things that have to be done, and time and money is required to do them; but my impression of the ports—and I can speak of only the last ten years—is that there have been very rapid advances, and, let me say (because the thunder is sometimes stolen by someone else), advances that were initiated before the Rochdale Report was published.

The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, spoke of a port, which was mercifully nameless, in which it took fourteen days to load 4,800 tons of general cargo. I am not going to ask him where the port is, but it astonishes me, unless there was something very peculiar about the delivery of the cargo to the ship. If the cargo was delivered, I cannot think of any major port in England at which that cargo could not have been loaded in a week; and if it really took fourteen days, I can only say that I do not think the cargo was there to be loaded. Again, the noble Earl referred to the conditions of the call. I agree with the noble Earl, and with the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, that there is something very objectionable about the system of call; but, of course, it is within your Lordships' knowledge that attempts to humanise it in the docks were met with great objections from the men, who did not want to go under cover and did not want to be placed in a situation where they were planned in advance. That is by the way.

My Lords, I felt myself very much in agreement with what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, had to say about the length of licences, and I hope that the Government will consider this point again. I can tell your Lordships from my personal experience we have had negotiations with important customers who are coming to bring a large quantity of cargo through this port, who are renting a berth for a long period, and who are putting in a lot of money to erect on the berth facilities on the lines which the noble Earl described. One of their first questions was, "Can we use our own labour?"—because, if they are to operate this facility they naturally want to have control of the labour. Hitherto, we have been able to say, "Yes, indeed you can use your own labour". I do not know what will happen to arrangements of this kind if we now have to tell them that they can use their own labour for only a limited period of time. So I hope that this particular issue can be further looked at, and that perhaps we may get some help on it at a later stage of the Bill.

In fact, the suggestion that the ultimate goal may be to have all the labour force controlled by regional port authorities is one which I think, when we come to examine in greater detail the plans which the Government have in their mind, may prove to be less attractive than it appears at first sight to those who have advocated it. There are many terminal operators to-day who employ on a permanent basis a steady labour force of forty, fifty or a hundred people, and it seems to me that it would be a completely retrograde step to transfer those people, who are directly employed on a permanent basis by men they know, to a regional port authority, which would almost certainly be to some extent faceless, and then to have them returned by that regional port authority to work for the people for whom they used to work direct. This is obviously not the time to discuss these questions. The noble Lord, Lord Winter bottom, said that the plans which the Government have in mind need a lot of careful thought, and I agree. I hope that, while that thought is being given to them and while they are being discussed (as I think the Minister said they would be) with the interests concerned, some attention will be paid to that point.

I should also like to comment on what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on this question of inland depôts. I think it is a very good move indeed to give these powers to port authorities. I agree with the noble Earl that they should also be shared with other people, and I do not think there is anything to prevent that. There is just one question I should like to ask, if the noble Lord, Lord Champion, is in a position to answer it. Reference was made to the clause in the Bill under which disputes over what is and what is not dock work should be referred to a tribunal set up under the Industrial Training Act, but this is an issue of such importance that I wonder whether it could not be made clear before, so that people will know what the position is. Will the work at inland clearance depôts be dock work, or will it not? It is really of great importance.

When I heard that the Parliamentary Secretary in another place had referred to the fact that they would not be very far from the port, which is the matter to which the noble Earl referred, I had it in my mind that perhaps he was thinking of retaining the work in these inland depôts as dock work; whereas, if they are going to be established (as we have heard rumours they are) in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, it would seem quite senseless to make the work in those depôts qualify as dock work and so subject to the control of the National Dock Labour Board, and so on.

I would also confirm what the noble Earl said about setting up an Industrial Training Board for the ports industry. I do not know that this is the Bill in which such a Board should appear, but I feel, as I have said before, that this would be a very desirable thing. But in the meantime, I do not think we ought to imagine that there is no training going on. Quite a lot is being done, and more is being prepared with the assistance of the National Ports Council, who have a special responsibility here.

My Lords, I would not have mentioned the Government's plans for the future at all had it not been for the fact that they had been referred to, and I want to say only two things about them. I do not share with the noble Earl the fear that this will inhibit progress in the ports industry. I do not think that either the port authorities or the responsible port employers who will get licences will be deterred by an uncertain future from doing their best. They will, of course, rely even more firmly—and perhaps here the noble Lord, Lord Champion, can give us some encouragement—on the fact that if the time comes when their business is to be transferred to some public authority, they will be adequately compensated for any expenditure they have incurred.

But what I feel is most unfortunate is that the very interesting Report of the Labour Party Study Group—with a great deal of which I find myself in broad agreement—should have been published without a little editing. In particular, I regret that there should have gone into print the statement, in reference to reducing the number of employers, that such a plan"— and that is really the plan outlined in this Bill— could not hope to win the confidence of the men". That may be the opinion of the authors of the Report—indeed, I am sure it is their genuine opinion, or they would not have said it—but it is in my view most unfortunate that that statement should have been published, because we know that unfortunately there are some people in the docks who do not want decasualisation and who, we must say, are out to make trouble. I cannot think of any sentence that can be so well seized upon in the docks than the statement by respected Members of Parliament supporting the Labour Party that such a plan as is embodied in this Bill "could not hope to win the confidence of the men". I wish there were some possibility (I am sure that the authors of the Report did not take a card vote on that) of putting that statement in its proper perspective.

The Report went on: The least that will be accepted by the men is a new structure based on public ownership. That again is an expression of opinion which the members of the Group are entitled to hold, but I feel it is a pity that it should have been included in the published Report. Let the men and their representatives declare their position when the time comes to declare it; this pre-judging of the issue with statements of that kind appears to me unfortunate. I wish that it had been possible for those passages to be deleted; even so, the document would still have been very powerful.

My Lords, that is all I want to say, except that the port industry, as we know, is determined to make this Bill a success. We do not believe that it will solve the whole problem; but we hope that it will provide the conditions in which those problems will be more easily and economically solved in the future.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I have some hesitation in following the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, in speaking on this particular Bill. Because of his very intimate knowledge and working association with the dock and harbour industry he is more adequately equipped than, I think, anyone else to make a contribution to this debate; and I am sure that your Lordships listened to his speech with the greatest attention. I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Winter bottom, on his presentation of the Bill—not only on his Parliamentary performance but also on his grasping the fact of the general acceptance of the principles of this Bill throughout the country.

I was delighted to hear from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, of the support the Opposition also are to give this measure. This follows on what took place in another place; although I note that the noble Earl indicated that there is some possibility of his putting down an Amendment on long-term leases at the Committee stage. I would remind him that during the four days of Committee stage in another place no vote was taken on that particular issue. So far as I can recall, only one Amendment was voted on; and it was certainly not on that particular issue.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord and apologise for doing so. I entirely agree with what he said so far as the Committee stage was concerned. But he will agree that a vote was taken on that point in another place at the Report stage.


My Lords, that being so, I hope that no Amendment will ultimately be moved and carried in this House that will lead to any delays in the operation of the Bill. That was the point I was about to make. We know what would happen if it goes against the Government's wish in this direction.

The principle of the Bill has already been adequately dealt with by my noble friend Lord Winter bottom and by other speakers, and it is therefore not my intention to go too much into detail. As your Lordships know, this Bill comes about at this stage because of the Devlin Report, the Second and Final Report, which was merely a follow-up of a number of other inquiries that have taken place on labour relations in the ports. This measure is one more effort to try to remove many of the difficulties that beset labour relations in the ports. It is an example of forward thinking; and I endorse what the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has said. I think that here is a basis for a solution to some of the vexed problems. Although the Bill represents a real step forward in the direction of what may be the long-term solution, in my opinion it is not, and cannot be, the final answer in bringing our ports to maximum efficiency.

One can appreciate Lord Simon's defence of the efficiency of the ports and I hope that he, and others, will not take it amiss if I make some odious comparisons (which I think it is as well to do) without entirely decrying what happens at our ports. In comparisons of port charges and port costs the efficiency of our ports is a relevant factor. It is worth looking at what has taken place in some of the ports mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—Hamburg, Amsterdam and Rotterdam—and comparing their method of operations, their method of employment and their general attitude, and then relating those facts to port costs. It is there that the difference becomes obvious between home and foreign ports.

Certain fears have been expressed—and this was mentioned by other speakers—that the reduction in the number of employers and the wider power given to all the authorities is a further move towards nationalisation. I suggest that this thought ought not to form the basis of any opposition that might develop in his House. The nation accepts a mixed economy. If a greater degree of public accountability in a given industry can lead to increased efficiency, and, in the case of the docks, remove some of the causes of troubles and difficulties there, then I think we should be prepared to face even that possibility.

Our port charges are high when compared with world tables of charges. An analysis of our port efficiency and labour troubles could account for this, and I do not think it is entirely a credit to us, as a great maritime nation that depends so much on the maximum facilities being given for the interchange of trade.

I hope your Lordships will bear with me a little, because I now want to make some of the comparisons to which I referred a moment or two ago. A year ago this week I had the privilege of accompanying a number of Members of the other place in checking the veracity of complaints made by the Birmingham Chamber of Trade about their difficulties in getting their export goods to leave these shores. After a discussion with them, our party followed by bus the lorries coming from Birmingham to London laden with goods for export. We covered 98 miles of the M.1 in two hours, and it took two hours to cover the 28 miles from the M.1 terminus to the London docks; that is, 126 miles in four hours. There is a real bottleneck, as we all know. We have built motorways, but they were not planned in a fashion to enable us to get goods to our ports speedily and thus complete what should have been one of the major jobs to assist the economy of the nation.

At the London docks we talked with lorry drivers who had brought loads from many places and who were queueing up to unload. They told us that they had been waiting many hours to unload their lorries. In some cases the drivers had to park their vehicles overnight. This is an alarming state of affairs. We were provided with a helicopter—I think it was laid on by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the Port of London Authority—to take us the length of the London Docks. At dock after dock we saw queues of lorries waiting to unload. There may be several reasons for this. It may be that a producer wishes to ensure that his goods are unloaded first and so delays the loading until the last two or three days during which the ship is tied up. But the fact remains that there are lorry drivers who have to wait many hours in order to unload.

We flew to Dusseldorf and talked with members of the chamber of trade there in an attempt to find out what were the difficulties. We heard no word of complaint about delay in the transit of goods or unloading. We went to Europort at Rotterdam and covered the 156 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes. There was no delay or waiting there. We must take note of these things. I am not sufficient of an expert to be able to pinpoint the real difficulties and I am not pretending to be an export after having made one visit, but these are things which we actually saw.

When talking with the authorities at Europort, we found—and here I am open to correction—that Europort deals with 146 million tons of cargo a year with a labour force of about 16,000, as compared with the London docks, where 64 million tons of carg[...] is dealt with each year by a labour force of 24,000. We must take into consideration the striking difference between the organisation at Europort and at London. At Rotterdam there is one employer of labour, the Port Authority. Here we have numerous employers, about 1,400. Surely there is no need for me to emphasise that difference. At Rotterdam there is one trade union; here we are bedevilled and beset by a number of trade unions. I know that the Port of London Authority has attempted to instil some sense into this situation, but found great difficulty in arranging a meeting between the trade unions and the employers.

At Rotterdam all employees receive a weekly wage. Only one-quarter of our dock labour force has a permanent weekly wage; the rest are employed on a casual basis. We may understand the difficulties that arise in the London docks, but when we speak in favour of retaining a number of employers, surely we should keep these things in a true perspective and make a proper comparison. The system of casual labour employed in the London Docks has been described as degrading. The men seem like slaves as they wait in a queue to be employed. Either at 8 o'clock in the morning or at noon they wait to see whether the foreman, or charge hand, or whoever does this work, will pick them out and say, "We will give you a job for half a day." If there is no job they get 9s. attendance money, and if they do not get a job during the week they get £9 call-back pay. It is degrading and below the standard which men have a right to expect. I know that there is some opposition from dock workers to attempts to alter the conditions, but this objection is something which we have inherited. All real efforts to bring about change are opposed, but this indicates that we have been slow in trying to create a new climate of thought in which to bring about a change in outlook.


My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, will permit me to intervene for a moment—I thought he was still making a comparison with Rotterdam, and perhaps he is—I think it right to tell your Lordships that figures of cargo handled and labour employed depend very largely on the type of cargo being handled. You have to deduct oil, in respect of which hardly anyone is employed, and imports of iron ore, which are handled by large mechanical plant such as we do not have in London. I have not the figures with me, but I think you will find, when getting down to the figures for general cargo, little difference in the number of men employed and the amount of tonnage handled.


My Lords, I appreciate the point made by the noble Viscount, particularly in respect of oil. I did not mention that, because I do not know the actual percentage myself, although I made some inquiries. I will accept what the noble Viscount says. But in respect of Europort and at Rotterdam and the whole area which is served, if a similar amount of cargo tonnage is handled, I shall be surprised. Rotterdam is highly mechanised and there is a two-shift system working. The maximum use is made of expensive equipment, and loading gangs work wherever work is available. They do not get this type of thing where there are different employers instead of one employer, or where there is a system of transferring labour. Rotterdam boasts of its training schemes. I was delighted that the noble Viscount mentioned that we have some training schemes. I have not heard much about them, which may be my fault, but at Rotterdam there are many training schemes for new entrants to encourage esprit de corps in respect of dock work so that it may be regarded as a trade, as distinct from the brutal and awful system of casual work.

Probably, my Lords, I have painted too gloomy a picture and there is another side. Do not let us decry ourselves too much, despite the temptation to do so which often exists. Following the ravages of war a new outlook has been brought to bear on European docks. Most of the old equipment was totally destroyed, and they could commence to build anew. They did away with the casualisation of pre-war years and brought in more up-to-date, single unit forms of dock labour. But we still have to break down the old traditional casual dock labour. It has not been so easy for us to bring about these changes at it has been for our competitors abroad.

We have also had difficulty in investment. In the years 1962 to 1964 we invested only £18 million in the development and modernisation of our ports, though since 1964 investment has crept up to the region of £60 million a year. This is a step in the right direction. When all is said and done, we are to-day, as a nation, in a difficult economic situation. We are desirous of increasing our exports, and in handling these, and our imports, we must in the maximum degree of efficiency in the docks. This Bill is a first step in dealing with one of the initial causes of labour troubles, and I hope it is a first step towards finding an end to the troubles which have beset us for so long. The next, and bigger, step depends on the economic and transport plan about which the Government are thinking so seriously. Docks form an integral part of this assessment. I am sure that in giving this Bill the blessing of this House, we shall wait, with great interest, for the next step to he taken to make our docks and harbours even more efficient than they are to-day.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in the first part of his speech, emphasised the need for over hauling our methods of handling carg[...]s. He mentioned the growth of container traffic. I warmly agree with all he said. Docks as we know them to-day could not possibly deal with container traffic on the scale which will be certain to develop: there just is not enough room. There will have to be huge inland container ports, from which containers will go by road or rail to their final destinations.

The speakers who have preceded me have covered so much ground that I feel free to concentrate on the position in one of our small ports. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the port of Par, in Cornwall, which has been included in Schedule 1 to this Bill. The port of Par is owned by English Clays Lovering Pochin & Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of English China Clays, Ltd. It is especially equipped to expedite the loading of china clay into ships, and has the specialised port installations recommended by the Rochdale Report for china industries of this kind. The loading of china clay into a railway truck, a lorry or a ship is the end of a long technical process of conditioning a basic raw material for use in a variety of sophisticated industries.

The men employed in Par Harbour are proud of the fact that they belong to the busiest small port in the country. They handle about 1,500 ships a year, with peak tonnages as high as 26,000 tons a week. This amounts to 340 tons per foot of quay over the whole year, compared to the world average of between 180 and 275 tons. A ship of 600 tons may load as many as 20 different grades of clay in bulk and in bags. This requires a high standard of stevedoring and dovetailing from the storage linhays of the drying kilns to the stowing in the hold. In fact, the dock labour and the men in the drying kilns do very similar work, and even look alike at the end of the day.

It is often forgotten that Cornwall is the cradle of British industry. Par is one of several small Cornish ports developed to serve the mineral industry. In this case the idea was conceived by one of the Famous Cornish families, the Treffrys, in 1836. The Treffry Estate Act 1853 stated that the port was built in 1853 for the pursuance of all merchantile and commercial operations for and connected with the Estate. This is the only legal force which Port of Par, Ltd., have as successors to the Treffry Estate. They are therefore not a statutory authority. They do not come under the Piers, Harbours and Docks Act 1847. The parent company, English China Clays, Ltd., do not exercise any monopoly rights on the working of the port. The policy of this company has been to develop the Port of Par for the benefit of the industry as a whole. The philosophy and policy are simple and profitable. A dozen or more other producers have therefore enjoyed the benefits of modernisation, mechanisation and various amenities as a result of large sums spent by English China Clays, Ltd.

This port, with the exception of about 1 per cent. of declining extraneous trade, is entirely occupied as a specialised port concerned with one industry, to an extent quite unique in this country. Conditions which exist in other small ports are entirely absent in Par. The National Employers' Association said in their evidence, recorded in the Devlin Report, at page 87, paragraph 237: that a number of the smallest ports might with advantage be outside the scheme, especially ports which serve a single undertaking capable of taking the port over. I maintain that the exclusion of the Port of Par would conform with the "first principle" of the Devlin Report, inasmuch as the spirit of the scheme will be preserved.

My Lords, I am speaking with special knowledge of this small port. For some fifteen years I lived there, and I have seen the improvements which have been made possible by the investment of substantial capital. I took an active part in the modernisation of the china clay industry during the vital period in its history. Under the leadership of the late Sir John Keay, it was developed into one of the most successful and technically efficient industries in this country, and the modernisation of this port was part of a very wide plan. To-day the industry earns over £14 million in foreign currency, exporting some 77 per cent. of its total production. The principal producers, English Clays Lovering Pochin & Co., Ltd., have just received the Queen's Award. China clay is Britain's second largest bulk export. I am still connected with the industry, as the Board of Trade's nominee member of the China Clay Council, and although I now live in Falmouth I always know what is going on in the strenuous fight to keep up the level of exports against increasing competition. I can therefore claim to have much more than average knowledge of the facts.

The Port of Par is already the sole employer, and the conditions recommended in Lord Devlin's Report already exist. My contention is that, laudable as this fact may be, it would be possible to go much further if the port were excluded from Schedule 1 to this Bill. By this I mean that, although the small group of 50 working in loading ships with china clay are really part of some 5,000 men employed in the industry, they are cut off from them and from advantages enjoyed by their mates, notwithstanding that they are doing practically the same work. These benefits I refer to include profit participation, sickness benefit, welfare, death grants, long service awards, sports, et cetera, and I am assured that if the Port of Par, Limited, achieves exclusion from the scheme and the Bill, it would expect to draw up a mutually satisfactory agreement with the trade unions. As a matter of fact, an approach to the Transport and General Workers' Union was being considered before the Rochdale Committee was set up. They had, therefore, to wait for the Rochdale Committee's recommendations, and later for those in Lord Devlin's Report. In fact, the wish to give direct employment was definitely in advance of the Report.

My Lords, there are no chalk line marks at Par. This is not a case of dealing with hundreds of employers: there is only one. This is almost an ideal port, and it could become even happier if the 50 could join in the benefits enjoyed by the 5,000 by being integrated in the same industry. We are all aware of the daunting complexities which have beset the development of our ports. We have to contend with so many people, beginning with shipping agents, packers, insurers, bankers, brokers; road transport to docks, unloading, storage and finally loading on board, all to be repeated at the other end. These are "chalk marks" not so readily known. I have not, of course, mentioned customs, which represents another delay.

In paragraph 58, on page 26, of the Rochdale Committee's Report there is an interesting comment as follows: We have received evidence that we should recommend the building of one or two entirely new ports. The idea has certain attractions—for instance, an entirely new port could provide a life-size laboratory in which new ideas in design, construction, plant, equipment, working methods, et cetera could be tried out without being hampered by the existence of out-of-date facilities provided for the needs of earlier generations. This comment is a challenge which, if we meet it, could lead to the establishment of a lead over all our rivals. I am referring to deep water capable of dealing with tankers, bulk carriers and containers up to between 100,000 and 200,000 dead-weight. These are the figures which we have to look at for the future.

It may be possible to develop such a port in the not too distant future. In the meantime, there is in Par a pattern already established where labour relations are concerned which could be copied by the small ports which Lord Devlin suggested could be outside the scheme. There are ample safeguards, and more will be available if the port labour can be integrated into that of the industry: people like crane and conveyor drivers, whose wages follow those of the dockers but who get less money. While on wages, it is timely to mention that in Par the dockers earn on an average about 20 per cent. more than the national average.

Every movement of transport has to be co-ordinated these days. Revolutionary methods of handling must be studied constantly so as to integrate transport movement from beginning to end. Par is already in advance of other small ports in turn-round efficiency. It is a tidal port. There are, therefore, quiet periods; and owing to storms in the Channel, there are days when there are no ships. It is on such occasions that the full integration of dock labour would be advantageous. They could be absorbed in the nearby works which surround the harbour, in work which they know as well as they know their own docks.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, and I am afraid I have not prepared a speech, but, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to say a few words; and I apologise to the noble Duke and to the noble Lord the Deputy Leader of the House for keeping them back a little in making their remarks. I must disclose a certain personal interest, because I have business connections with some of those who work in the docks. I feel that I cannot let this good Bill go through without a few words from these Liberal Benches giving it our general blessing, as it seems to have the blessing of others in all parts of the House.

What has struck me about this debate is that it has been a good debate, and the criticisms of the industry in its various failures in the past have been made by both sides about both sides, and there has been no hostility or rivalry. If I may he so bold as to give advice to the Government—and, of course, we all do this—I would ask them to do two things; first of all, to read the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon; and secondly, to read it again. It seemed to me to sum up admirably most of the points on both sides which have been so difficult to tackle in the past.

We have had from a noble Lord oppoisite a most frank explanation of the difficulties of overlapping by the trade unions. Of course they must be cleared up; and we know who can clear them up. In one small instance with which I was concerned there was a small vessel in a small slipway or dry-dock needing a small repair which would have taken half-an-hour to carry out. But there was a dispute whether it should be the boilermakers or the engineering people (I think it was) who should do it. The work was held up for months. The little shipyard could have done the job in half-an-hour; but, if it had, all activity on the Mersey would have come to an end. That sort of thing does not help anybody, and it is at least equally bad for the dockers as for others.

I should like to give my support to the query about the short period for licensing. As the last speaker said, we are now getting on to very big figures in dock equipment, ships and so forth, dealing, as he said, with vessels of between 100,000 and 200,000 tons. The noble Lord mentioned the difficulty of finding deeper berths for them. Incidentally, some people think that we have not any; but I believe we have. They could be accommodated, for instance, at Milford Haven and Eastham on the Mersey. But the ancillary work for serving these ships needs enormous plant and enormous costs. A big ship like that may need five or six tugs to get it in and out of a berth, and each of these tugs—some of them perhaps with fire appliances—may cost a quarter-of-a-million pounds. You cannot buy six tugs costing a quarter-of-a-million pounds each if your tenancy is to be limited to three, five or seven years. And, similarly, ore-discharging is very costly. That just is not good business.

Finally, it seems in general that this Bill has the blessing of us all in this House, and that both sides are being helpful about the past failings of the other side. I hope from these Benches that it will get a quick and satisfactory passage through Parliament.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I make my contribution to this most interesting debate with great diffidence, because I am aware that, so far this afternoon, virtually all the speakers have spoken with great knowledge and first-hand experience of this difficult and complicated subject; and I must confess, as I am afraid may well become apparent during the course of my speech, which I assure the House will have the merit of brevity, that my knowledge is far from complete. However, I take part in the debate with great gratitude, because it is clearly one of vital importance, particularly to a country plagued with the economic difficulties from which we are suffering to-day. After all, our docks and harbours can be likened to the taps through which our all-important and vital exports flow, and that those taps should flow as freely and quickly as possible is in the interests of us all.

For many years past the history of our docks and harbours has been bedevilled with a multitude of problems, and the difficulties have proved themselves singularly recalcitrant to solve. In order to try to solve them, there have followed, in the course of recent years, a welter of the most admirable Reports and Commissions. Noble Lords have made due reference to the admirableness of the Reports, and not least those of the Committees headed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin, and the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale. But the time has now come when the writing and the reporting must cease, and action must begin. This Bill, which we on this side of the House welcome, is certainly a step in that direction. As a result of the Bill, we can all hope with optimism that our docks, and the traffic through them, will flow more efficiently and speedily.

At the end of his speech, my noble friend Lord Jellicoe touched on one matter to which, at the risk of striking a discordant note, I should like to return. It is because we approve in great measure of this Bill, that I am sorry it has been somewhat spoiled by this threat of nationalisation. The noble Lord, Lord Winter bottom, in his closing remarks, spoke very ambiguously about what the Government's long-term future for the docks was. I found his remarks both ambiguous and vague. I feel that enough has been said, both here and, particularly, during the Second Reading debate in another place, to cast doubts in the minds of those most involved in the docks. I do not see how the employers can recruit first-class management, which is a most necessary prerequisite to any modernisation scheme; how they can carry out training—again, absolutely essential in any mechanisation and modernisation plans—and, perhaps equally important, how, in conjunction with the harbour authorities, the really substantial investment can come about, with this threat—and that is a fair word to use, I think—of nationalisation hanging over them.

All these are vital requirements; and there are others, such as investment, management and training, all of which require an assured steady future for the industry, so that able men will join it knowing that their future is secure. Without security, which would show the way ahead, the vital money for investment simply will not be forthcoming. Perhaps this is an unworthy thought, but I hope it is not the Government's idea that, by creating these conditions of doubt and uncertainty, they will produce a situation in which the industry will not function in its present set-up with private employers as efficiently as it should and they will then be able to say: "These employers are not as efficient as they should be, so they must be nationalised"; that is to say, first of all creating conditions of uncertainty, leading to a drop in efficiency, and then saying, "Right!, the solution to this is nationalisation." We are all aware that something of the same kind happened in recent months in the aircraft industry. Grave doubts were cast in that field, and the results were most distressing and grievous to that industry to an extreme degree. That is my main criticism in this afternoon's debate.

I have only a couple of detailed points that I should like to make—first of all, licensing. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe, like the noble Lord, Lord Rea, dealt fully with the need in certain circumstances for licences to be extended beyond the maximum of seven years visualised under the Bill as it stands. I will not deal with that point any further. I am, however, a little anxious about the possible dangers in the reduction of the numbers of employers. Of course, we fully support this in principle, though hoping that it can be achieved voluntarily, as I understand has been done in the enclosed docks of London, whereby the number of employers is to be reduced from 35 to 9, thus more than living up to the recommendations in the Devlin Report. I hope that this reduction, desirable and essential as it is, will not of itself mean that it will be virtually impossible for new employers to enter this field. Otherwise, there must be a very real danger, human nature being what it is, that these existing employers who have received licences will become complacent from lack of competition, with the resulting inevitable slackening and lowering of efficiency. I should like an assurance from the noble Lord, Lord Champion, when he winds up, that there is no danger of there being created as a result of the Bill what I might call an employers' "closed shop".

The other point (and perhaps I am prejudiced here as one of my primary interests in this House is transport) is that next week we are to receive the long and eagerly awaited White Paper on transport. Particularly in view of this Bill, and in view of this afternoon's debate, I shall look forward with the greatest interest to seeing what the White Paper has to say about the use of liner-trains. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my most earnest hope that the Government will insist on genuinely—and I stress the word "genuinely"—free access for all hauliers to the loading depôts for these trains, so that the mechanisation and modernisation which will be brought about by this Docks and Harbours Bill can play its full part. Liner-trains are something for which we have great hopes in this country, but if hauliers are to be denied the use of them, then our exports will no longer flow as freely as they should, and a considerable degree of the greater efficiency that will result from the modernisation of our docks will be lost and wasted.

As my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has said, we approve of this Bill, and we wish it well. We approve it because, as the noble Lord, Lord Winter bottom, said, it is designed to implement the findings of the Devlin Report. But to my mind the Government have tarnished the objects of the Bill with this hidden threat of nationalisation. This is one thing, above all else, about which the Devlin Report was quite categoric. The Devlin Committee said that nationalisation would obviously upset not only the employers, but also the employees. Therefore, should the Government intend to nationalise the docks in the future, they will not be implementing the Devlin Report, as I understand they are proposing to do by this legislation. I must ask the noble Lord, Lord Champion, when he replies, to be as specific as he can, and to tell the House what the Government have in mind. If, in fact, it is their intention to nationalise some part, or the whole, of the docks, what is the proposed timetable to be? In my view, this is the least that existing employers are entitled to expect. In this connection, while I hesitate to say so, I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, who said that he did not think that uncertainty would cause a lowering of morale. To my mind, uncertainty always leads to delay and anxieties, and to a general holding back, instead of pressing forward, as we wish to do in the planning of our economy. I am truly sorry to end on this somewhat sour note, particularly when we in this House give the Bill, if not a complete carte blanche approval, at least one that is very nearly so. At all events, we wish it a speedy passage on to the Statute Book.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the Government are grateful, as I am, for the general welcome the Bill has received. There have been some doubts about it, and some doubts about statements which have been made, to which I shall refer later. The noble Duke spent a large part of his speech referring to this aspect of it, but to that I shall eventually return. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made an opening speech for the Opposition of the quality that we have long since come to expect from him. If the composition of this House is ever changed to exclude hereditary Peers from membership of this House as of right, we must ensure that Peers of the quality of the noble Earl will have here a place that his intellect and personality would justify. I have paid him a nice compliment and I certainly hope he will now be co-operative on the Committee stage of the Bill.

It seems to me that all who have spoken to-day agree that we must ask for, and expect, from all sides of this industry a new approach to the problems that have beset it for a long time. The nation expects this, and we simply must have it for the sake of the future of this country. We politicians tend to exaggeration, and I was particularly glad to hear the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, who seemed to me to bring it all into some balance. And here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that the noble Viscount's speech deserves to be read not once but twice, and I would perhaps add even more than that.

My noble friend Lord Popplewell has made his first major contribution to debate in this House. Technically it was not his maiden speech, for he made a brief intervention on the Committee stage of the Social Security Bill last week. Perhaps I ought to warn the House that it now has two railway signalmen among its Members—my noble friend and myself—and that jointly we shall be engaged in keeping the House on the rails. This means setting our signals at danger when the House appears to be on collision course and giving the "line clear ahead" when any blockage has been cleared. It is part of a signal-man's job to examine the existing traffic situation and then to look ahead in an endeavour to secure the best possible traffic flow, and this is what it seems to me my noble friend was doing, examining the situation as it appears to him over the whole of Europe and in this country and setting his signals at clear for the action which this Bill proposes.

The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Duke all referred to the maximum of seven years included in the Bill for the licences that are to be issued to employers. They contended that this period might be too short, and that being so short it might discourage investment which is so sadly still needed in this industry, and by the employers who will receive licences.

In deciding what would be the maximum duration for which licences can be issued, it is necessary to balance two conflicting considerations. The first consideration is that the term should not be so short as to discourage employers from undertaking investment, and this is the consideration that has been expressed by the noble Lords to whom I referred a few moments ago. The Government have had this consideration well in mind, and the importance which is attached to investment by employers is illustrated in the recent announcement by the Minister of Transport to make investment grants to employers (these are the people we are talking about here) as well as harbour authorities in respect of capital expenditure on harbour works or equipment. Noble Lords will have seen that Clause 40 of the Bill makes provision for this.

The second consideration, however, is that the maximum duration of licences should not be so long as to deprive the licensing authority of effective control of the situation in its port as it develops over the years. It has to be remembered—and this is an important point—that once a licence is granted it cannot be revoked during the period for which it was granted, except if there has been a breach of a specific condition laid down in the licence. It is clearly necessary to give the employers here a degree of security of tenure, but the Government feel that the term that they have arrived at, of a maximum of seven years, strikes a reasonable balance between the two considerations which spring to the mind in this connection. To increase the period of the licence beyond seven years would tend to freeze the situation for perhaps 25 years—I believe 25 years is the figure which the noble Earl's friends in the other place had in mind. I do not know what sort of an Amendment he will put down in this House, but I gather that he will put one down and I shall have to fight it off to the best of my limited ability. We simply do not want to freeze conditions in these ports. We do not want to freeze the conditions of the number of employers and everything about them for such a long period.

I do not attempt to deny that investment projects may be contemplated by port authorities where the period of amortisation would be longer than seven years, but firms undertaking investment on this scale would be likely to be pretty substantial ones and as such they would have every chance of having their licence renewed when it expires. I would suggest that the possibility in such a case of renewal of the licence being refused would he likely to be a much smaller uncertainty than the other uncertainties of a commercial nature which must surround any sizeable investment project.

We have to bear in mind also that if it should happen that a firm which had made a substantial investment was subsequently refused a licence, the value of the investment would be reflected in the amount of compensation which the firm would receive, so this seven-year period cannot be a bar to investment. Knowing these facts, if a man laid out a considerable sum of money on the necessary equipment he would quite possibly feel that if he, by any chance, did not have his licence renewed at the end of seven years he would be compensated for the amount that he had laid out. I think this is fair and right, and the balance of consideration therein on the one hand shows a degree of fairness to the employer, and, on the other hand, ensures that we do not freeze for too long a period the situation in the dock as far as the number of employers are concerned. The other point that has to be made in this connection I hope to return to later.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but this is an important point. He speaks of "freezing" the situation. The suggestion which I was putting to him would not freeze the whole situation throughout the whole port so far as the port employers were concerned. I was only urging that in certain specific instances where substantial investment was required and needed, there should be this greater security for the investor. It would not freeze the situation in the port as a whole.


Clearly this is a suggestion that one will have to look at. In preparing my reply to the noble Earl I was to some extent governed by the 25 years' period suggested elsewhere. I will, of course, be prepared to consider this, but there are some considerable difficulties about extending the period beyond seven years. The substantial employer will be, I think, reasonably satisfied with the guarantee that I have here given, and will himself decide to commit a certain amount of capital to this, on the understanding that he will have the use of it for the period and that, at the end of the period, if, by any chance, he cannot go on, he will receive what I am fairly sure will be reasonable compensation.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again. I should like to mention that I have not at this stage thought of a particular term of years myself, as I have been hoping that the noble Lord would be able to put forward a solution along the lines I proposed. I should like to look very carefully at what he has said before deciding on our action at Committee stage.


I have put forward the period of years which I regard as quite reasonable, and I hope the House will eventually accept the period set out in the Bill.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, asked whether it would be possible for employers entering the port for the first time to use their own labour—at least I understood the noble Viscount to put that point. If he did, I would tell him that we are not by any means saying that there shall never be a new employer entering the docks—and this is the answer to a question put, I think, by the noble Duke. It will always be possible for someone to apply for a licence, but if someone comes in, having been granted a licence, he will have to employ registered dock workers and this, of course, as the noble Viscount knows, has been the position ever since the Dock Labour Scheme came into being in 1947.


I think the noble Lord has misunderstood what I said. I was really making the same point as the noble Earl: that employers taking on a long lease of premises want to use their own labour—I mean permanent labour—once they have a licence. I appreciate, of course, that it would be registered dock labour, but the men would be employed by those particular employers throughout the period of the lease. It is the same point as the noble Earl's point.


I am very grateful to the noble Viscount. This is what I understood from one phrase in his speech. I was trying to answer something which clearly he did not say.

The noble Duke asked, would there be a possibility of an employers' "closed shop" To some extent I have just answered this point by saying that it would always be possible for some new person to come along and apply for a licence. He would have to justify his application, and if his application were granted he would have to use the labour under the Dock Labour Scheme.

A general point was made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, which seems to me to be to some extent outside the scope of the Bill—I refer to the training of dock workers. This is a matter that comes under an Act passed when the noble Earl was sitting on this side of the House, the Industrial Training Act—I think that is all the wording there was in it. No Training Board has been set up yet for this particular industry, but the question of doing so is at the present moment under discussion with the National Ports Council and other interested organisations.

At the moment, the training of dock workers is largely undertaken by the Dock Labour Board. They have seven training centres for induction training and specialist courses, including crane drivers. It will take some time to decide on whether to have a training board. The existing position of the Dock Labour Board and the National Ports Council must be conserved, but this is a matter which is, as I say, under review and general discussion, and I am sure the point that was made by the noble Earl will be taken into consideration in this connection.

The noble Earl and my noble friend Lord Lindgren referred to first aid. I must say that the main problem here is the shortage of trained first-aiders. Surveys of welfare recently completed by the Dock Labour Board revealed this point clearly. The Board are considering how to improve the situation and how to get more men to come forward to be trained. The Ministry of Labour will be keeping closely in touch with the Board on this problem, but it is of course not a problem that can be solved by legislating. The Docks Regulations of 1934 are entirely adequate if they are properly implemented. I have met this problem in the railway industry, where there is always a liability for accidents. It was extremely difficult to get people to give up time and thought to practise to become competent first-aiders. This is the problem the Dock Labour Board are facing at this time, and I certain hope they will solve the problem because it is essential that we should have available immediately in industries of these kinds men qualified in the practice of first aid.

The noble Earl also made reference to the welfare amenities. I think there was throughout the whole of the debate general support for Part II of the Bill, dealing with this aspect. I suggest that the welfare provisions will establish machinery which will be well adapted to what is needed in this matter in the docks in the immediate future. The position in the main is that at the present time the welfare amenities which are needed are simply not in existence. It is not a question of bringing things up to standard here and there. Considerable new building is needed in the many cases where there is simply nothing in existence at the present time. The method of preparation of schemes for the different ports by the Dock Labour Board, which will have statutory powers when approved by the Ministry of Labour, will ensure that rapid progress can be made. The Dock Labour Board will, I am sure, keep in mind the best practice everywhere. It was suggested that we ought to follow the practice on the Continent. I am sure the Dock Labour Board will keep this in mind. I think it is an advantage of the present provisions that the Dock Labour Board will play such a prominent part. They will associate the unions closely with welfare provision, and that, I think, will be a useful extension of the general control which has been a feature of the dock industry in post-war years.

The noble Earl asked me whether port employers could exercise their initiative and go ahead immediately with the provision of amenities. Generally on that point I can say that we shall not be waiting until all the statutory schemes can be prepared by the Board before pressing ahead with action. The Board, in consultation with the Ministry of Labour, will be approaching harbour authorities and the employers responsible with a view to securing an early start on the works needed.

Blueprints of what needs to be done are already in existence in the shape of the surveys carried out over recent months by the Dock Labour Board. This was mentioned in the opening speech of my noble friend Lord Winter bottom. I would think it advisable for employers to ascertain whether their proposals fit into the welfare requirements specified by the Board before proceeding to the construction of new buildings or anything of a costly nature. I believe this would be a wise precaution, and I am sure that it would be the desire of the port authorities, anxious as they are to secure these amenities for dock workers, to give every possible assistance in this connection to those employers ready to go forward soon with construction that might be necessary.

Inland clearance depôts was a possibility which was welcomed by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. In this part of the Bill, Part III, there are a number of provisions which will be of considerable importance in improving port efficiency. There is a general power in Clause 36 for harbour authorities to provide and operate inland clearance depôts; and in Clause 37 there is the power to buy depot businesses or shares in them. Inland clearance depôts will be of increasing importance in dealing with cargoes in containers. The use of containers is growing, and the Government want port authorities to be equipped to play their full part in this new and increasingly more efficient method of transport. The depôts will continue to relieve congestion in the immediate port areas, and this is to be encouraged.

The noble Earl asked me the specific point: Can persons or bodies other than harbour authorities establish inland clearance depôts? There is nothing at all to prevent a non-statutory body from establishing such depôts. Bodies such as associations of shippers are not statutory bodies, and therefore there is no need for us to make any statutory provision in a Bill to enable them to establish an inland clearance depôt. I think this answers fairly clearly the point of the noble Earl.

I am not quite sure whether it was the noble Earl or the noble Duke who asked me whether some of these depôts would be well inland and not within about ten miles of the port. I have not had a chance to check up what the Parliamentary Secretary said in another place. We hope that these inland clearance depôts will be established in the heart of the places which do the exporting. I would think that Birmingham is an obvious case. I have made another inquiry, because I thought that if it were established perhaps by a private enterprise there might be some difficulty about Customs provision and clearance at these new depôts. The answer is that the Customs have said that they are prepared to provide Customs facilities in inland clearance depôts. Indeed, powers are being taken in the current Finance Bill to extend the Customs arrangements to such depôts. They will, of course, be concerned to ensure that the most efficient provision is made so that the staff requirements are kept to the minimum. But these facilities will be available whether the inland clearance depôt is operated by a private undertaking or by a port authority.


My Lords, I wonder whether I could just thank the noble Lord for this full information. From my point of view, it is extremely helpful to have this information. I have checked up what the Parliamentary Secretary said, and I am glad to note that what the noble Lord has said is entirely contrary to what the Parliamentary Secretary said; and I know that the noble Lord is, as always, right.


My Lords, I am grateful for the last part of the noble Earl's sentence, that I am, as always, right. I hope I shall continue to prove it. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, asked me whether work at an inland depôt will be dock work. The answer is that it could be if the depôt is in the vicinity of the port. Most of the depôts will not be in the vicinity of the ports, and therefore work there will not be dock work.

I come to just about the last point that I have to make on the general questions that have been raised. This is on nationalisation. I rather expected that noble Lords opposite would come on to this particular point. The noble Earl and the noble Duke made reference to it, and what I have to say here is what the First Secretary said: that while the Government were not committed to the recommendation of the Report in detail, they accepted its broad principles. I personally could not accent that there is anything contrary between the Government's policy of the future in this matter and action that will flow from the present Bill. It will obviously be some considerable time before new legislation can he introduced embodying wider changes in port organisation, and before those changes can he implemented in practice. For the immediate future, we are faced with an interim period when we must press ahead with the quite substantial requirements, of which the licensing provisions of this Bill are an essential part. It would be quite wrong to leave things as they are and accept the present casual conditions in the docks throughout this period. We are now in a position where important advances in conditions for dock workers and in the efficiency of our ports are well within our grasp, and we are therefore anxious to go forward with the introduction of licensing and the other action needed to secure full decasualisation.

But the Government's intentions for the longer period of years have to be worked out into legislative proposals. Sometimes we think that it will be but a short time before we introduce a Bill; but after getting down to the study of the whole matter we realise if may be several years hence before this Government, who clearly have before them a life of anything up to twenty years, could work out these proposals and eventually introduce them. But I should hope it would come rather sooner than that. In the meantime, we want these proposals, while thinking out and preparing our legislative programme in this connection.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, seemed to me to be asking me to explain and justify some sentences in the Labour Party study group report. If he was doing that, all I can say to him is that I have enough work on hand to justify the phrases and suggestions contained in this Bill that we now have before us.

The last point I would make must be in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, who proudly spoke of the port of Par. What a wonderful public relations officer he would make for that port! He clearly had some local things to say about it. This is one of the ports which have made representations to the Honeyman Committee seeking to be excluded from the Dock Labour Scheme. We must be careful not to get confused about this. The small ports which are included in Schedule 1 are all at present within the Dock Labour Scheme. Some of them—Par is an instance—have made representations to the Honeyman Inquiry seeking exclusion from the Scheme. If any of these ports were to be excluded, it would be the intention that the Minister of Transport should then make an order under Clause 2 deleting them from the Scheme; but as long as they are covered by the Dock Labour Scheme they will be subject to decasualisation, and there is no reason why the licensing provisions should not be applied to them. We think that it would be quite wrong to exclude such ports from Schedule 1, because if we did this it would exclude them from the welfare provisions in Part II of the Bill as well as from the licensing provisions. There is no reason why the workers in the port which was mentioned by the noble Lord—and there are others—should not have the benefit of the Bill's provisions on welfare.


My Lords, in a case like this, where the provisions will be an advance on what has already been recommended, should it not be a matter for consideration?


I was rather hoping to show the noble Lord that this was being considered. If I did not, I should like to spend a little time talking to him about it afterwards, and perhaps showing him my brief on the point, which expresses it so very much better than I possibly could.

We have had a useful and interesting discussion on this Bill, and I am extremely grateful to everyone who has taken part in this Second Reading debate. I look forward with some pleasure to the Committee stage—provided that that stage is a short one and that I am not worried too much by it. Having said that, I strongly commend the Bill to your Lordships' House.

On Question, Bill read 2a; and committed to a Committee on the Whole House.

House adjourned at eighteen minutes before six o'clock