HL Deb 19 July 1966 vol 276 cc388-423

3.45 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Champion.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Conditions and duration of licences]:


moved to add to subsection (5): Provided that the licensing authority may in exceptional circumstances, and with the prior approval of the Council, grant a licence for a period in excess of seven years from the said date.

The noble Viscount said: The purpose of this Amendment is to give effect to a suggestion made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on Second Reading, a suggestion on which I ventured to comment to your Lordships. The subject of this Amendment was fully discussed in another place, and it is a fact that at the Report stage a particular Amendment was put forward in another place and defeated. But I do not feel that this involves a matter of principle upon which noble Lords might think it wrong, or at least unwise, to challenge the views of another place. I feel that we here, like the Members of another place, are doing our best to make this Bill—on the principles on which we are all agreed—as effective an instrument as we can, and it is in that spirit that I have put down this Amendment.

I am sure we are all agreed that what our ports need is more and better investment. I hope that most of us are agreed that what they need is a combination of private and public investment. I believe that private investment has a very important part to play in the development of our ports, not least for the reason that it is only by getting private investment into the ports that we can inject risk capital. The public port authorities necessarily raise their finance by fixed interest bonds, and I think that if, on looking back, it is sometimes thought that port authorities have been rather unadventurous, it may be that that has something to do with it. I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, and his colleagues may have had this point in mind when they recommended that we in this country should adopt to a greater extent the practice adopted abroad, especially in the very successful ports of North-West Europe, of port authorities' constructing quays and leasing the quays and the berths to private enterprise to develop.

It is this private development which I believe can be further encouraged by allowing the licensing authorities some freedom, in exceptional cases, to increase the period of the licence. I know that the spokesmen for the Government in this matter have felt doubt and wondered whether, if the door were opened, it would lead to a flood of applicants for longer licences; and whether this would have the effect of breaking down the whole purpose of the Bill and freezing the pattern of employment in the ports. But that argument, it seems to me, is based on a not quite correct understanding of the two different kinds of port employers with whom the licensing authorities will have to deal.

We have, on the one hand, what I might call the general employer, who engages dock labour and offers various services to ship owners and merchants, services in connection with the handling of cargo; and he offers them to anyone who may accept the offer. He is a general employer such as, for example, a stevedore or a lighter age company. Then we have, on the other hand, what I would call the special employers: those who engage dock labour for the purpose of working their own cargoes on their own premises. It is this latter group of employers who I believe will sometimes be found to need the greater security than a seven-years period can offer them.

My intention in putting down the Amendment in the broadest possible terms was to make it difficult for anybody to claim as of right a longer period of licence. I have suggested that it should be left entirely to the licensing authority, with the approval of the National Docks Council, and that they should decide each application on its merits. I have brought in the National Ports Council for two reasons. One was that I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, when he was speaking on Second Reading had some doubt about the possible wisdom of licensing authorities, and he would like to have some independent body backing them in this respect. The other reason is that to have an outside body such as the National Docks Council deciding these cases will help to ensure that cases arising from different ports are dealt with on more or less the same terms.

Once again I have suggested in this Amendment putting in no top limit, and that is for the same reason. It was suggested, I think, that if a top limit such as 25 years, which has been talked about, were mentioned, everybody would go for 25 years. It seemed to me that, if we mentioned no top limit, people would have to start from scratch and establish a case for whatever length of licence they felt was justified in their case.

I hope that the issue of the extended licence would remain completely exceptional. I believe it is the practice sometimes, when an independent body is given discretionary powers, for the Government to give advice by way of a circular as to how they feel those powers ought to be exercised; and in this case I should have thought that some kind of guidance to the licensing authorities and to the National Ports Council on those lines might be helpful. In another place the Parliamentary Secretary was very much concerned lest an extension of the licensing period would lead to undue rigidity, especially, I think she pointed out, in so far as the reduction of the number of licences to the optimum might not be reached at the first stage, and there would be a second stage which everybody would hope would not be too long delayed. But here again I think the point that is missed is that the sort of licences which I feel might properly extend for longer than seven years is just the sort of licence which one would not want to reconsider in any case.

The object of reducing the number of employers (and I hope that I am not misunderstanding Lord Devlin and his Committee) is; really aimed at what I have called the general employer. We want to see, and Lord Devlin wanted to see, a small number of firms, each large enough to employ a steady labour force and to have a fairly even workload. I do not think (and I was re-reading the other day the paragraphs in the Devlin Report on the subject) that Lord Devlin and his colleagues have applied their minds to the problem of what I call the special employer. Certainly, reading the paragraphs in the Report, it seems to me that they clearly refer to the general stevedoring contractor. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, or the noble Lord, Lord Champion, is going to reply to this Amendment, but if it is felt that my proposal could be considered, I do not think it will be found that this is going to affect the question of reducing the number of employers in the ports as quickly as it can be done.

On Second Reading, I mentioned briefly a case in point which I felt might illustrate the sort of thing I had in mind, and perhaps I might repeat the outlines of this case to show how important it could be to have this power, to be used very infrequently, to grant a licence for a longer period than seven years. The case refers to a prominent foreign corporation which was seeking a base for its operations in Western Europe. So far as I know, the choice was narrowed down to the Port of London and the Port of Rotterdam. Eventually, I am happy to say, the business was settled in the Port of London. One of the things these people were anxious about was that they should have control of the labour operations on their berth. And we were able, in the absence of this Bill, to say that this was perfectly all right, and so the deal was clinched. But had we been able to say only, "This is all right for seven years, and after that if all goes well you can have it renewed", I cannot say that we should not have lost the business. In any keen negotiations of this kind, I believe it is of enormous importance to have the freedom to offer the client what he wants. I hope that by what I have said I have been able to persuade the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill to consider this Amendment seriously. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 6, line 18, at end insert the said proviso.—(Viscount Simon.)

3.57 p.m.


I am sure that many of your Lordships will recall the speech which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, made on the Second Reading of this Bill. I can pay it no higher compliment than to say that it was as impressive and informed as one would expect from the noble Viscount, given his abilities and given his great experience of the subject matter of the Bill; and I would venture to say the same of the way in which he has moved this Amendment. He has kindly said that it dealt with a point which I laboured, perhaps unduly—although I made no apology for labouring it, because I think it is an important point—on Second Reading. But more important than my advocacy of this was the advocacy of the noble Viscount, with his knowledge, and indeed of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, who also knows a thing or two about our ports. I think that what we were saying on Second Reading, what the noble Viscount has said now, and what I shall be attempting to say, is broadly in line not only with what was said on this point in the Rochdale Committee's Report, not only with the latest Report of the National Ports Council, but also with the decasualisation advocated in the Devlin Report.

I shall try not to repeat what I said at Second Reading, and there is certainly no point in my repeating what the noble Viscount has just said. But I should like to remind your Lordships that we are, or should be, moving into a new era of port development, port organisation and port management in this country. There is a great opportunity for us, if we use it wisely, to leap-frog our competitors—and they are very keen competitors—on the Continent. We have the chance, if we use it wisely, not only of making our ports more efficient, so that they can handle our own trade better, but also of capturing, or recapturing, as the case may be, a substantial part of the transit trade which the noble Viscount touched upon in the example he mentioned. But we can only do this, as the noble Viscount pointed out, if we are prepared to plough substantial investment into our port facilities. At Second Reading we mentioned some of the types of investment: the big ore handling facilities; bulk cargo handling facilities; the special facilities for specialised cargoes; the roll-on roll-off facilities, and the increasing demand for container facilities.

I should like in this context to commend to your Lordships a recent report entitled Through Transport to Europe, which a Committee under my noble friend Lord Caldecote recently prepared under the auspices of the National Economic Development Office, in which they refer to the need for container facilities, a need which a number of private consortia in this country are planning to fulfil. In their Report they said: Extensive shore terminal facilities and handling appliances are necesary at the ports to enable the ships to be turned round quickly. That is for containers. Not only are extensive facilities required, but these facilities are extremely expensive. If the Government desire to attract the best private enterprise into our ports—and I take it from Clause 40 that they do—I very much doubt whether they will succeed if all the security which they can provide in all cases is limited by the seven year period of the licence in the Bill as it stands.

I do not wish to plough over again the ground which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has so skilfully excavated, but I should like to dwell on three of the arguments against an Amendment of this sort which have been adduced, not only, in your Lordships' House at Second Reading, but also in Committee and other stages in another place. There it was stated that the private employer, wishing to make a substantial investment of this sort in other ports, need not really worry that he can rest assured that he will have no difficulty in obtaining an extension of his licence from the port authority and, therefore, he can go ahead quite happily and sink £1 million or two of his company's money in extensive quayside installations. I am inclined to think that this argument made in another place is really too bland. If that is indeed the case, why are the Government so insistent that the initial period should not be longer? What is the point of restricting it to merely seven years, especially when one is dealing with exceptional cases?

Secondly, how is the argument that a good employer need not worry because he will in any case get an extension compa- tible with the main argument which the Government have advanced—namely, that they do not wish to freeze the pattern of port development. I think we are all agreed that we do not wish to put a 1966 mould now and for all time on our ports, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has made this perfectly clear. But he has also made it clear that the Amendment, if it is accepted, would provide a perfectly flexible arrangement, and would not freeze the future pattern. In any event, to argue, as the Government have tended to do, that they cannot allow this flexibility to a port authority, or the National Docks Council, in exceptional cases argues a certain lack of confidence in authorities which we all wish to make as strong as possible, and which will have, in all cases, an expert and distinguished membership.

The other point which has been argued against this type of proposition is that sufficient authority is already provided by the fact that if a licence is refused for reasons other than the original conditions not having been complied with, the licensee will receive compensation, as is provided in Clause 13 of the Bill. I would admit that there is some force in this plea. I have thought about it a good deal since the noble Lord, Lord Champion, advanced it on Second Reading. I do not think there is enough force in it to make it reasonable for the Government to resist a reasonable Amendment, which I hold this one to be. In the first place, the potential applicant would take a rather pessimistic view of the compensation which he might receive.

Without bringing in steel, et cetera, I would merely draw the noble Lord's attention to subsection (3) of Clause 13 which shows that the compensation terms in this Bill are based, as I read them, on the situation existing at the moment when an application for a renewal of licence is turned down. If in the previous year there had been a recession in world trade; if the licensee had had in consequence a bad year's business—and we know how sensitive our ports are to fluctuations in world trade—his compensation terms might well reflect, not his initial investment, not what he had subsequently invested, not that plus good will, but rather the results of that exceptional and bad trading year. That is rather a technical argument.

What worries me about the argument which was advanced on compensation by the noble Lord is that it implies a rather crabbed approach on the part of the Government to this matter, and one not likely to attract the sort of progressive private enterprise in our ports that we need to attract. Surely the Government want to attract investment in our ports from companies which are prepared to try out new ideas, to chance their arm, and to have a real go. I very much doubt whether this sort of company will wish to go into this business looking over their shoulder, as it were, or with their accountants looking over their shoulder, at the sort of compensation they might get in seven years' time.

In another place the Opposition pressed this issue very hard, and put forward Amendments which were not quite the same as, in fact were distinctly different from, that which the noble Viscount has now put to the Committee. I should like straight away to say that I consider the noble Viscount's Amendment to be an improvement. I think it is better in that it does not specify a given number of years. I feel it right myself that the period, in exceptional circumstances, should be made to fit the particular case. Secondly, I think it is better because it does not specify precisely what the exceptional circumstances may be. They may be heavy investment—the sort of thing I had in mind at Second Reading—but there may be others. Finally, I think it is better in that it specifies that this type of exception should be made only with the approval of the National Ports Council. I feel that this is right. May in conclusion, pray in aid of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, some words which figure in the Mikardo—


Gilbert and Sullivan?


No, the Mikardo Study Group. In paragraph 45 of the Mikardo Report I find these words: The new developments in the docks—some of which can already he seen in ports abroad—all require confident and rational decisions on the development of large sums of money and extensive equipment. All require some measure of central planning and control over whole ports. I would not wish to argue against some measure of central planning and control over whole ports, and the Opposition have not argued against that. But I should wish to argue that if we want to attract modern, progressive, risk capital to organisations capable of making competent and rational decisions, then it would be highly desirable if the Government could accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon; otherwise I doubt whether one would get confident decisions from the port employers. For these reasons, I should like to give my strong support to the Amendment which the noble Viscount has moved.

4.10 p.m.


I should like also to support the Amendment. I shall do it briefly and without going back to Second Reading points. I am not accusing either noble Lord of bringing them up, but they have clarified again what was expressed in that debate. It is difficult to appeal to the noble Lord, the Deputy Leader of the House, because he is always so extremely reasonable that it makes one feel a little guilty. However, I think he must agree that considerable feeling was shown in that debate for the idea embodied in this Amendment, and it was the general feeling of a great many people with some experience.

I think the Amendment is extremely moderate; it opens the door only very slightly. The first sentence of subsection (5) merely says that a licence for any port may be granted. Surely that in itself shows that if there is doubt about the suitability of an applicant, the application can be refused at the beginning. As the noble Viscount said, one can see the applicants who are coming forward and whether they are men of substance who will increase the business and the prosperity of the port as well as their own prosperity. Things are moving at a fast rate at the present time, not only in technical development but unfortunately also in expense, and if we are going to impose an implied restriction, which this clause does imply, we shall be encouraging a disincentive rather than an incentive. With all the precautions and safeguards that there are before the application is made, and possibly to interfere with the licence in the middle period if it is not going right, and to make allowances for bad years, I hope the Government will be good enough to give this rather moderate Amendment careful consideration.


In the past I have had considerable experience of dock and harbour administration, and I have been particularly interested in this point. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Simon said and the arguments he used, and therefore I am not going to repeat them. I agree also with what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has said upon the point of compensation; and as regards the easy answer—that, after all, the seven years is not an absolute figure but can be extended—I would submit to your Lordships that that is plausible rather than sound. Commercially it is not good enough. It is just in those cases where, as the noble Viscount has said, some possible customer is weighing up the prospects in one port as against another that this kind of uncertainty just tips the balance. I would therefore urge the noble Lord in charge of the Bill not to be rigid in this matter but to accept this very reasonable Amendment, which I think will make for the better administration of our ports and harbours; and with all the safeguards and moderate provisions which the Amendment itself embodies it cannot possibly do any harm to the general policy behind the Bill, with which I agree.


It would appear that I am going to be the discordant note on this Amendment. This Bill is trying to reduce considerably the number of employers in the docks, but there is the avenue in the Bill whereby a certain limited number of employers may still remain on the seven-year basis. I suggest that seven years affords a reasonable opportunity for anyone who is thinking of making this a permanency and occupying the berth in full for the whole of the time. Because what is really required under the Bill is an assurance that the whole dock labour force will be used on a permanent basis, as distinct from casualisation. Therefore, I think they will have the opportunity in seven years to assess their ability to do that.

Furthermore, if there is any intention of reducing or taking away their licence the Bill provides for a period of two years in which notice must be given, in order that they can adjust themselves in that particular direction. I feel that these are reasonable terms. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, called in aid paragraph 45 of the Mikardo Report; he really ought to have read a little further, because it distinctly draws attention to the demand for maximum use of installations and full exploitation of the controlled flow of traffic. How can this idea operate if there is going to be this tie-up again?

Turning to the Amendment itself, I see the difficulties that would be involved, because it distinctly says that the authority may do something "in exceptional circumstances". What is going to be the definition of "exceptional circumstances"? The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, rightly calls in aid not the licensing authority itself but the Ports Council, to establish some degree of what might be "exceptional circumstances". This reveals the weakness of his case, because I think it would involve the licensing authority and the Ports Council in very great difficulty and in invidious decisions as regards the definition of "otherwise", and discrimination between the various types of employers who might submit an application of this description.

Your Lordships know that there is a wide variety of opinion as to whether this Bill does not go a little too far in allowing licensing to take place at all; whether it might not be more advantageous to have the port authority as the employing body in ports as a whole. This question of licences which is embraced in the Bill is somewhat of a compromise to try to get unanimity all the way round. Let us face what the position will be if we take the noble Viscount's own area, the enclosed ports—the Port of London Authority—and the suggestion in the Devlin Report that there should be a reduction of employers from 35 to something like 9. What will be the position on the rest of the river, where there are some hundreds of other employers outside the enclosed ports? One could imagine that if there were a loophole it would give them, as it might be, a further degree of permanency, and there would be quite a number of additional requests for licences. Therefore I think it might be as well to keep the position as it now is in the Bill for the seven-year period, with the safeguard that if this proves successful private capital may be invested—and I hope there would be a big inflow of private capital investment, which has not been very apparent in past years in the ports where private employers have had such a big say so far as all the berths of our rivers are concerned. They have not gone ahead to the degree which might have been expected if they had shown a real desire to modernise and equip our ports. Therefore one can visualise, say, the Thames itself, with a vast number of employers apart from the present Port of London Authority. If the authority is going to take over the question of licences, and the ships and various berths which are now outside its prerogative and involve a great number of employers, one can see the great difficulty it will be in. The Port of London will be trying for too much of its time to differentiate and agree upon what might be exceptional cases for the extension of this seven-year period.

I do not know the reaction of the Government to this matter but, having in mind what occurred in the other place, I sincerely hope they will not hold out any promises that this extension will be guaranteed. With the point in mind the whole of the time that if a particular employer has been licensed for the seven-year period he has invested very heavy capital during that period, notice has to be given to him two years before the end of the seven years, and if he is making a success of it in the way that has been talked about I am fairly sure the licensing authority will be prepared to extend his time in accordance with the efficiency, the investment, and such like, which has already brought his particular berthing area into being.


I hope that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. I will not go over the arguments. I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, very interesting but, so far as I was concerned, unconvincing. I think if the Government do not accept this Amendment they may well find that in years to come they will wish they had. In the subsequent administration of an Act, it is often very useful to have a little elasticity such as this Amendment would provide. The case cited by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, is, I think, very appropriate. There may well be similar cases in the next year or two, and in the absence of this Amendment the Government might wish that this permissive power, carefully safeguarded, was available to them. Excessive rigidity in time limits is something to be avoided where possible in framing legislation. I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

4.23 p.m.


I do not think anyone speaking from this Box could complain about the tone of the debate. I have listened to a number of moderate and well-reasoned speeches, and clearly these will have to be very carefully considered. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and others, about the importance of this matter; and I certainly agree with his remarks about the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. The noble Viscount, with his customary clarity, backed by his formidable experience—which of course he has—and further backed by the formidable experience of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has set the problem pretty clearly before the House. Both of them have had personal experience of this matter, and therefore the points they have made must be considered very carefully.

Up till now, the Government do not feel they can accept this Amendment. It has been pointed out that this question of the maximum duration of licences was most carefully considered in the other place: it was considered again and again. I agree completely with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that the fact that it was rejected in another place does not mean we have no right to discuss it here; indeed, we have. This is a right which I shall maintain this House has and it is quite proper that those who have the experience noble Lords have should be able to put down Amendments here and ensure are consideration of the matter, even if the Bill has gone through all the processes in the other House.

Following the Second Reading debate in this House, we had the benefit of informal consultation with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and in the light of what they said to us—and we were very grateful to them for coming along and talking to us about this—we have looked at this whole matter afresh. I do not think that what has been said to-day, although it produced a relevant illustration of the principles involved, has really altered the basic principles. The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said that this Amendment was a very moderate one, and that I am myself a very moderate man; and this makes it extremely difficult for me to reject the pleas of moderate people. But on this matter we have before us an Amendment couched in very general terms. I think that this is partly to prevent my discussing it in very precise detail—indeed, if I tried to do so I should run into difficulties. But the Government's basic position is that there should be in all cases, without the possibility of exception, a review of the licensing period after a short time. We still take the view that the period ought not to extend beyond the seven years provided for in the Bill.

We have never attempted to deny that there are conflicting considerations in this matter; and, clearly, they must be taken into account in settling the maximum term of licences. On the one hand, we must consider the effect on investment projects and on the policy of leasing berths to particular employers, which of course is the main point of the noble Viscount. On the other hand, we must ensure proper control by the licensing authority. I think that this is common ground between us: the difference is one of emphasis. The Government place more weight on the need for retention of control by the licensing authorities, and are less impressed than are the supporters of the Amendment by the deterrent effect on investment, and so on, of a maximum period of seven years.

Perhaps I may first say a word on the need for licensing authorities to retain control. We have to cater for the possibility that the reduction in the number of employers which is so badly needed in the ports will not be achieved at one stroke. It may not be possible in all ports as soon as licensing is introduced to carry the necessary reduction in numbers as far as it ought to be carried. It will not always be a practicable proposition for a small employer, for example, to turn himself overnight into a bigger one. Moreover, time will be needed to work out the consequences of the reduction in the number of employers as regards the deployment of labour. I think this is clear to everyone who has ever studied this problem. To introduce a system of permanent employment in the docks is an inherently difficult operation because of the fluctuations in the work—and I am delighted to see that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, nods his head in acquiescence in the point I have just made. It will take time to work towards a stable pattern and to organise the deployment of labour efficiently to meet all demands, as the noble Viscount knows full well.

I must repeat here the point that was made and quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary in the other place: that we must reckon with the position where more than one stage is needed to get to a situation in which the structure of employment in the port is as it should be. It is therefore vital that the licensing authority should not surrender its freedom to review the situation at reasonably frequent intervals. The granting of long licences must necessarily circumscribe its freedom in this respect. Once a licence is granted, it can be revoked only for a specific breach of a condition. This is obviously necessary if the licence is to give the employer any degree of security. It must inevitably follow from this that, wherever licences were granted for long periods, the situation would be frozen so far as those particular employers and that part of the port were concerned.

The noble Viscount said something that worried me a little. He said that on Second Reading I said something which appeared to cast doubt on the integrity and ability of licensing authorities. If I said anything of that sort, I clearly did not mean to do so, and had no intention to cast any doubt upon them; indeed, we are by this Bill placing a heavy burden on people whom we feel are capable of bearing the burden which we shall be putting upon them.

It was argued by the noble Viscount and others in support of the Amendment that if long licences were confined to exceptional cases, with the safeguard of prior approval by the National Ports Council, there would be no danger of the situation being frozen to an undesirable extent. There is I think room for argument on how extensively long-period licences would he granted under a provision such as the Amendment. Certainly, licensing authorities and the National Ports Council would be under great pressure from employers. All employers with long leases, with freeholds, or who were contemplating or had undertaken investment which was substantial in relation to their own resources, would doubtless apply for long licences—of course they would. Whether in fact either the Council or licensing authorities—both being bodies mainly representative of port users and port operators—would nevertheless restrict long-period licences to the exceptional cases which the noble Viscount was quoting on Second Reading must be a matter of some doubt. It would, after all, be essential for any provision of this kind to be administered equitably. The licensing authorities just could not pick out particular applicants arbitrarily.

I believe that this Amendment in its present form would place upon these bodies an intolerable burden which they ought not to be asked to carry. In the Government's view, there ought to be a general provision enabling the situation in each port to be reviewed after not more than seven years. Once you start to admit the possibility of long licences in exceptional cases, you are hound to diminish the effectiveness of control over future developments—and this would not be acceptable, particularly during a time when change is proceeding at an unprecedented pace, and when none of us can foresee with any precision the new factors that could emerge once we begin to think in terms of the decades ahead.

The noble Viscount and other noble Lords stressed the difficulties which they thought would be caused in particular types of case by a maximum term of seven years. Obviously, the fact that a cast-iron guarantee could not be given as regards renewal of licence is bound to influence the situation. But what the employer in these circumstances has to assess is primarily the chances of his licence being reviewed when it expires. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, rather doubted the value of this. In cases of the sort which the noble Viscount was quoting on Second Reading, those chances must surely be strong. Where there is major capital equipment tied up in the operations of a particular firm, both the licensing authority and the National Ports Council are going to consider most carefully before refusing a renewal of the licence to such a firm. Obviously, re- newal could not be automatic, but if it were refused it is surely of the first importance that the employer would then be entitled to compensation which would reflect the value of his investment. Some doubt was cast upon this by the noble Earl, and he mentioned some cases.

In all this there is bound to be some risk and uncertainty, but the compensation provisions that are written into the Bill particularly in Clause 13, are I think fair. Indeed, they have not been seriously challenged, either in this House or elsewhere. They provide for compensation equivalent to any diminution of any value of the assets of the business, including good will, which is attributable to refusal of the licence; or, in the kind of cases we are discussing, refusal to renew a licence. I think we must remember that any major investment project must inevitably be beset with some uncertainty. It is not a field in which one can have cast-iron guarantees, when one considers all the commercial factors that must enter into major investment decisions.

In cases of the kind the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was discussing, the employer, before embarking upon a major project, must weigh all these risks and uncertainties. Under the licensing provisions of the Bill, he must also consider the duration of his licence and chances of renewal—and he will be able to establish that two years before the licence expires, under Clause 10—bearing in mind that he will get fair compensation if his licence is not renewed. This was the point to which my noble friend Lord Popplewell referred. I find it quite difficult to accept that these considerations would ever be decisive in an employer's mind, when looked at against all the other economic and commercial factors which have to be taken into account.

On this point of compensation and the fact that it might shake the will of a person to invest in one of our ports, I must pray in aid what the noble Viscount said on Second Reading, when he was referring to the possibility that the Government might at some time introduce nationalisation. What he said, in Hansard of July 11, at col. 41, was this: I do not share…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…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". What applies to the point which the noble Viscount was then making about the possibility of nationalisation proposals being introduced, I should have thought applies equally to the position in which they apply for the licence, knowing that it will be for seven years in the first instance, and it might thereafter be extended, as I have already said that it could be.

I assure your Lordships that the Government have gone into this point most carefully both in relation to the discussions in another place and following your Lordships' debate on Second Reading and the further consultations which I mentioned at the outset of my speech. As I have said, I do not think that the arguments and the various illustrations which have been produced in any way affect the basic principles involved. However much we may differ about what the effects are likely to be of a maximum of seven years so far as concerns investment and the acceptance of long leases, obviously the Government would not be adhering to a maximum of seven years unless they were convinced that this was necessary for the effective control of the structure of the industry as it develops in the immediate future.

We are grateful to noble Lords opposite and to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, for ventilating this issue so thoroughly and for putting with such clarity the considerations involved. But after the most careful consideration of all that has been said here and elsewhere, the Government adhere to the view that the provisions in the Bill are right in all the circumstances. I must therefore advise the Committee that the Government feel that the proposed Amendment would not serve the best interests of the sort of development which we hope to see in our docks and harbours in the years that lie ahead. If the noble Viscount feels that the weight of argument on the part of those noble Lords to whom I earlier referred as being so knowledgeable in these matters is such that he cannot withdraw his Amendment, as I would urge him to do, perhaps he will tell us what he thinks. I feel it would be wrong on my part flatly to reject everything at this stage without possibly giving the House an undertaking that I will take it back and have further consultations upon it.


As the noble Lord has said, a considerable weight of opinion has been deployed in support of this Amendment by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, the noble Lords, Lord Rea and Lord Hurcomb, and my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale—in fact has been deployed from almost all sides of your Lordships' House. This illustrates one aspect which I should like to make crystal clear straight away, and that is that this is not in any way a Party point. Although there has been that considerable weight of opinion, I would assure the noble Lord that there has been no ganging-up on him in these matters, no unholy alliance—in fact, if there had been an alliance it would have been a holy one, but, as I say, there has been no such alliance whatsoever. It is merely that a number of your Lordships feel that this Amendment would materially improve a useful Bill.

Before the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, speaks, may I say how some of the arguments deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, struck me? The noble Lord spoke of freezing the pattern in the ports and of the danger this Amendment would carry with it in so doing. I cannot speak for the noble Viscount, but, as I interpret the Amendment, it would not, and could not, impose a deep freeze on our ports. It would be at best a shallow freeze; and, as the noble Lord himself has said, it would affect only particular employees and particular parts of certain ports. He talked of the question of discrimination. I do not wish to make a debating point here, but I would draw his attention to the fact that the Bill as it now stands contains within it the possibility of discrimination, since the licensing authority will have to decide whether to grant a particular licence and whether to do so for three, four, five, six or seven years. There is already the possibility, nay the certainty, of discrimination, embodied in the Bill. Then, he talked of the question of the possible renewal of the licence, and on that matter I am not certain I made myself clear. I was not doubting what the noble Lord had said about the good employer almost certainly receiving an extension of his licence. All I was saying was that if that is the case, it at least knocks some of the validity out of the "freezing" argument.

Finally, there was the question of compensation, on which the noble Lord said that all investment carried with it certain risks. All that I and my noble friends are asking is that the risks in this respect, especially where heavy investment is concerned or where exceptional considerations apply, should be diminished to the greatest possible extent. Although the noble Lord said that the Government took the view that this clause would not act as a disincentive to progressive investment in our ports, the fact remains that the two noble Lords in your Lordships' House who have unrivalled first-hand experience of this matter, the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, take the opposite view. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, replied, as always, with great courtesy and great thoroughness. Nevertheless, I must confess that I, for my part, am disappointed with his reply. I cannot speak for the noble Viscount, but I hope he will consider pressing his Amendment, unless the noble Lord can say definitely that the Government are prepared to have a further, sympathetic look at this particular point. But that is only my view.


I should like first of all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for his careful and thorough reply. May I apologise to him; I am sorry that I appeared to impute to him some doubt as to the integrity and ability of the licensing authorities. Certainly integrity was never in my mind. I have an impression from something he said that he was doubtful of the wisdom of licensing authorities and thought they might be pushed around by applicants for licences.

I, too, am very disappointed with the reply, because it seems to me that I have not successfully made my case. I wonder whether the Government yet realise the essential difference between these two types of employer. I am sure that the Devlin Report, in pressing for a reduction in the number of employers, was thinking of the small general stevedore contractor who has a few chaps one day and then perhaps nobody for a week, the sort of contractor who cannot possibly maintain a stable labour force with a reasonably regular work load. That is entirely different from the sort of people we have in mind, such as people investing large sums in equipment for handling their own produce. It seems to me a great pity that we should contemplate these people having to live from hand to mouth, even if seven years seems rather long for "hand to mouth". After all, if they were asked to take up a lease, they would not dream of taking it up for seven years.

May we for one moment think of the people whom they employ? There are firms which have employed regular men on full-time for perhaps twenty or thirty years. And we are going to go to those men and say, "In future your employer will employ you only for seven years, and after that it may be that the National Dock Labour Board will have to allocate you to someone else." This seems to be an extraordinary position. The sort of people I am thinking of are the solidly established people who have been giving permanent employment all the time. Surely we do not want to make the position of their workmen worse than it is to-day. I hope that in these relatively few exceptional cases it will be possible to do something, if not in the words of my Amendment, in words which the noble Lord would feel to be better, for I am sure that he and his advisers would be much better at drafting an Amendment than I am. The noble Lord, if I heard him aright, said that if I were prepared not to press the Amendment to-day he would take the matter back to his right honourable friend and talk about it. Did I understand that correctly? I have only to look at the noble Lord to know that he will be sympathetic. Am I right?


May I say a word afterwards?


In those circumstances I should be glad to withdraw the Amendment at this stage, and perhaps we could have a briefer discussion on this subject at the Report stage.


Perhaps I should just mention one point to which the noble Viscount reverted, and that is that we accept that the main concern of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin, was a reduction in the number of general employers. But it would be wrong to rule out the possibility of some rationalisation of the employment of dock labour by specialist employers also. If one had a string of private wharfingers next to each other, and handling cargo intermittently, there might be a case for concentrating the employment of dockers in fewer hands.

The noble Lord asked me a straight question and I must give him a straight answer. I am prepared to take this point back and discuss it with my right honourable friends who are responsible for this Bill. What I cannot do, and will not do, is to give the noble Viscount any undertaking that I will come back with an Amendment. I cannot go as far as that. What I will do is to let him know by Friday, at the latest, whether the Government have been able to find some wording or are prepared to put down such an Amendment. This will give the noble Viscount ample time to put down this Amendment again, or some comparable Amendment, for consideration on Tuesday next when we come to the Report stage of the Bill.

I hope the noble Viscount will understand that, even if I am speaking sympathetically, I am speaking at the moment purely for myself. This matter has to go to many others. To some extent, as noble Lords know, I am merely the mouthpiece of the Department and am speaking as such.


In view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Appeals and objections]:

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.54 p.m.


I should like to ask two questions on this clause. Subsection (1) says: Any applicant for a licence who is aggrieved by a decision of the licensing authority on his application, or an applicant for or holder of a licence who is aggrieved by a proposal of the licensing authority with respect to the employment of dock workers may and so on. I have read that as referring to a proposal of the licensing authority itself to employ dock workers, which is mentioned in Clause 6(3). But different words are used here, and I wondered whether I was right. Presumably, a "proposal" by the licensing authority with respect to the employment of dock workers might mean the granting of a licence to someone else. I take it that applicant A has no right to raise any objection to what is done to applicant B.


The fact is that, after the licensing authority has made its decision—and that is the first stage after applications have been received—the licensing authority will have to consult the Dock Labour Board. Then it will make its decisions known to all the people who have been applicants, as well as to the National Ports Council. Any one of those employers—either those who have been refused a licence, or those who have been given a licence but who object to some of the proposals—may make an appeal. Also, if the licensing authority itself proposes to employ dock labour, this must be made known to all who will be interested, so that they, too, may have an opportunity of appealing against the decision of the licensing authority or the port authority itself to employ labour. The intention is that everybody who is properly concerned in this matter should have an opportunity of making an appeal against the decisions which will be anounced by the licensing authority after it has considered the various applications.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think I now understand that any applicant can, in fact, lodge an objection in respect of his own application, in respect of an application by the licensing authority itself to employ dock labour, or in respect of applications by anybody else.


As I understand it, in respect of decisions on those applications.


I thank the noble Lord. The other point on Clause 7 could have been raised earlier, but I missed it. It is only a question of drafting, but in line 10 of page 9 there appear the words: after the commencement of section 1 of this Act". Those words appear quite often in this Bill. Is that not a very peculiar piece of drafting? It seems an odd form of words.


There is a considerable procedure to be gone through, which I have just been talking about—namely, the making of applications; the decision by the licensing authority; the period for appeal and so on, plus the fact that we want the dock labour scheme which is now in draft to be decided before Section 1 begins to apply to those ports—with the exception, of course, of all those applications and so on which take place before the Minister puts Section 1 into operation. I hope I have made the point clear, as it is an important one. But there is a timetable embodied in this Bill, which is not quite clear until one really gets down with a piece of paper and a pencil to sort it all out.


I thank the noble Lord.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 to 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Determination of amount of compensation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?


I have only a small technical point to raise on this clause, and I speak as a legal layman in this matter. I have been puzzled by the distinction drawn in subsection (4) between "arbitrator" and "arbiter", and I note that in subsection (6) "arbiter" is the word employed. From such researches as I have been able to make, I gather from those more learned in the law than I am, that it has something to do with the practices in a country which is often hidden in the Northern mists. But I am not certain, and I should be very grateful if the noble Lord could tell us what the distinction is.


I must admit that I was in some difficulty about this matter. I looked up my dictionary, and it seemed to me that the two words were completely interchangeable. I therefore wondered why they were used in this way here. Apparently, "arbitrator" is the word that is used in legislation applying to England and Wales, but for some unknown reason—unknown to me, at any rate—in the country described by the noble Earl as the place where they have the mists, and so on, the word "arbiter" is always used in legislation. Subsection (6) here applies wholly to Scotland, because all the necessary powers for arbitration on this sort of point as it applies to England and Wales are contained in other legislation. I must admit that I am grateful to the noble Earl for having warned me of the fact that he might raise this point; otherwise. I should have been completely caught out.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clauses 17 to 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Amendment of welfare amenity schemes by the Minister]:

5.2 p.m.


moved to leave out subsection (1) and insert: The Board may at any time after a welfare amenity scheme has been approved prepare an amendment of the scheme and".

The noble Lord said: It would perhaps be convenient if, together with this Amendment, we could consider Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. These are all drafting Amendments to correct an inaccuracy in the wording of Clause 26. The need for the Amendments was brought to the attention of my noble friend by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and we are much indebted to him for this.

Clause 26 relates to the amendment of welfare amenity schemes which have already been approved by the Minister, at the instance of the Dock Labour Board. The clause is intended to apply to an amendment of this kind the same procedure of submission to the Minister, allowing time for objections to the proposed amendment, and then approval by the Minister as applies to the original preparation of a welfare scheme under Clause 25. This is secured by subsection (2) of Clause 26, which applies subsections (2) to (6) of Clause 25 to the making of an amendment to a scheme. But the procedure under Clause 25 is framed on the basis that the Board will first prepare the welfare scheme and then submit it to the Minister for his approval. As Clause 26 is now drafted, the procedure does not fit properly, because subsection (1) of Clause 26 does not provide for the Board to prepare the amendment and then submit it to the Minister: it provides for the Board to make application to the Minister and for the Minister himself to make the amendment that is desired. There is therefore a slight inconsistency between the wording of Clause 26(1) and the provisions of Clause 25. The wording of Clause 26(1) is also inconsistent with the wording of Clause 33, at the bottom of page 28 of the Bill. Clause 33 there assumes that the Board will be submitting amendments to welfare schemes for the Minister's approval. But, as I have said, as Clause 26(1) is now drafted the Board does not submit an amendment, but simply applies to the Minister, who then himself prepares the amendment.

The Amendments on the Order Paper will put this right by bring the wording of Clause 26 into line with the wording of Clauses 25 and 33. They will empower the Board to prepare the amendment to the Scheme, and will then simply apply the procedure under Clause 25 to any such amendment. This will mean that it must be submitted to the Minister for his approval, after allowing time for objections, and so on. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 38, leave out from beginning to ("Subsections") in line 41 and insert the said words.—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD WINTER BOTTOM: I beg to move Amendment No. 3.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 42, leave out from ("amendment") to ("under") in line 43 and insert ("prepared by the Board).—(Lord Winter-bottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM: I beg to move Amendment No. 4 formally.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 44, at end insert ("under subsection (1) of that section.).—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 26, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Power of harbour authorities to charge for welfare amenities]:

On Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I ask one question on Clause 28? I have mentioned this to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, but I should like to get it on the Record if I may. Clause 28(4) lays down that harbour authorities or others providing welfare amenities should not be authorised to recover from dock workers charges for the use of those amenities. That is obviously sensible. But Clause 35 includes among "welfare amenities" canteens. It might be thought that the only use that can be made of canteens is to eat in them. I understand—perhaps the noble Lord could confirm it—that this does not mean that eating in canteens cannot be charged for.


Yes, I can give the noble Viscount an assurance that charges for the use of canteens will be made. There is no inconsistency here.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clauses 29 to 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Power of harbour authorities to provide inland clearance depots]:

On Question, Whether Clause 36 shall stand part of the Bill?


We discussed this clause at some length on Second Reading, and I think that most noble Lords emphasised the great importance, if we are really going to get our trade moving smoothly and efficiently to and from our ports, of organising the assembly, packaging, customs clearance, reception, arid so on, of our imports and exports at inland clearance depôts, from whence goods will be moved to our ports in liner trains, et cetera. I asked for an assurance on Second Reading that persons other than the port authority would be able to operate such inland clearance depots, and I was given that assurance by the noble Lord. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, also asked the question whether, if the depots were operated by the port authority, the labour would necessarily be classified as dock labour, and I think that I am right in saying that he was told it would be dock labour only when it was in the vicinity of the port concerned.

I should like to ask the noble Lords opposite two questions here. First, can they tell us what is meant by "in the vicinity" in the context used in the reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon; and, secondly, can they tell us anything more about the thinking of the Government and the other authorities concerned—the National Ports Council, the Railways Board, the Customs authorities, and so on—on the general problem here? It seems to me absolutely right that these inland depots should be established, and established as quickly as posible. It is also right, in my view, that non-statutory bodies should be able to run them; and it is also right that the port authorities should be able to do so. What I am unclear about is where the dividing line is going to come, if indeed there is going to be a dividing line.

For example, I can envisage a situation where it might be considered right for the port authority to run those depots close to the docks in the vicinity of our ports, and the non-statutory bodies, the other organisations, those depôts situated further into our industrial hinterland. That would seem to me a reasonable rule of thumb; although I myself look at this problem very much as a layman. I should not wish to rule out the possibility of port authorities in certain circumstances operating these depots further back; but I am not clear what is Government thinking on this matter. If there is anything which the noble Lord could add to our knowledge on this point, I should be very grateful.

5.10 p.m.


The Government do not feel that they ought to set out limits for anyone's application of this particular clause on the establishing of inland clearance depots. What I should hope, and rather expect, is that there would be close co-operation between private enterprise and public authorities. I do not for one moment think that any port authority would establish an inland clearance depot in, say, Birmingham, if it were merely to compete with one already established by a private shipping enterprise doing the job which it could do well. If, on the other hand, no private enterprise set up such an inland clearance depot in that area, and, as a result, transhipment of goods was not being handled as efficiently as it ought to be, then I should expect the port authority to consider very carefully the establishment of such a depot. This is why this particular clause authorises the appropriate authorities to establish such depots. I would not at this stage try to give any ruling on this point. It is a matter for co-operation between the port authorities and private enterprise to ensure that this task of transhipment of goods is carried out in the best possible way for the advantage of the economy.

These may sound like nice loose phrases; but I think it must be borne in mind by everybody that the empowering clause of this Bill is not one which tells the port authorities that they must go ahead and establish these depots all over the place. What it does is to give them the necessary power to do it where they find that the existing or projected provision by someone else is not sufficient to do the job. This is reasonable. We must see how it works out. I believe that, given reasonable port authorities and reasonable private enterprise working together in this matter, the scheme will work out all right.

The noble Earl asked me a question concerning my remark about work in inland clearance depots being dock work provided they were within the vicinity of the port. I have not any exact distance of, say, 5 to 10 miles, or anything of that sort, that I can give to the noble Earl; but I can tell him that if such depots come within the Dock Labour Scheme then they will, for this purpose, come under the scheme and work there will be classified as dock work. If, by any chance, there is any disagreement as to whether work in a particular inland clearance depot is dock work, this is something which the noble Earl will see can be considered under a later clause by a tribunal set up under the Industrial Training Act. It seems strange to use this Act; but it appears to us to cover the appropriate tribunal for considering things of this sort.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that further information. As a result of what he said a further thought crossed my mind. That was whether it would be possible, and within the provisions of this Bill, for a consortium of harbour authorities, if they were so minded, to establish an inland clearance depot. I am not saying that this is necessarily a good thing. I do not know. But I notice that subsection (1) of Clause 36 says: A harbour authority may provide, maintain and operate, either alone or together with any other person… these inland clearance depots. Can the noble Lord tell us whether "any other person" could include another harbour authority?


From what I remember about the use of the word "person", it can mean "persons", and very often it does cover other authorities. I should not like to be too dogmatic about my answer. I would rather have some consultation, and then write to the noble Earl. If he feels it necessary, I will try to make a statement on it at the Report stage; but I think it is probably covered in the Bill.

Clause 36 agreed to.

Clauses 37 to 48 agreed to.


moved, after Clause 48, to insert the following new clause:

Council's power to give awards

. It is hereby declared for the avoidance of doubt that the power of the Council under section 3(1) of the 1964 Act (research, training and education) to promote research, training and education of any description includes power to give awards of any kind to any person for any activity connected with research, training and education of that description, and any reference insection 3(2) of that Act to the promotion of research or training or education shall be construed as including a reference to the giving of any such award.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 5. Under Section 3(1) of the Harbours Act 1964, the National Ports Council are empowered to take such steps as appear to them practicable and desirable for the promotion of research into harbour matters and the training and education of persons in harbour management or the carrying out of harbour operations. Under Section 3(2) it is the Council's duty, if directed by the Minister of Transport, to promote such research or training and education as is specified in the direction. The Council are of the view that an award scheme would provide encouragement, but they have not yet instituted one because of a legal doubt whether it would be within the powers conferred on them by Section 3 of the 1964 Act to spend money in that way. This new clause is intended to remove that doubt. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 48, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Champion.)


As explained by the noble Lord, the purpose of this Amendment seems wholly admirable, and I welcome it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [References of disputes about meaning of "dock work" to a tribunal]:

5.18 p.m.


moved, in subsection (1), after "question may" to insert: "subject to the provisions of the next following subsection". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 6 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Champion. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if at the same time we were also to consider Amendments Nos. 7 and 8, and also Amendment No. 10, which relates to Clause 58. The substance of the Amendments relates to Clause 50, which deals with disputes about what constitutes "dock work "for purposes of the Dock Labour Scheme. At present, the only way of settling disputes about whether a particular process comes within the definition of "dock work" for the particular port is for the Dock Labour Board to take a criminal prosecution in the magistrates' court against the employer concerned. This is not a satisfactory way of settling these particular issues. Clause 50 therefore provides for these disputes to be settled by the industrial tribunals which were established under the Industrial Training Act 1964.

Disputes about dock work will usually arise between the Dock Labour Board and the employer concerned with the work in question. But it is also possible that a worker or a group of workers might be in dispute with the Board in this matter. Indeed, there has recently been a dispute of this kind which was the subject of an inquiry set up by my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour. This was a case where the Board took the view that certain work—in fact, the driving of fork-lift trucks—should be regarded as dock work. It was therefore handed over to registered dock workers, and the men who had previously been employed on it were displaced. The displaced workers and their union were, in this way, in dispute with the Dock Labour Board.

The main purpose of these Amendments is to provide that, where a worker is a party to a dispute about dock work, he can get the matter referred to the tribunal only by acting through his trade union. As the clause stands, any individual worker would have the right himself to take the Dock Labour Board before the tribunal. It has been represented to us, both by the employers and by the unions in the industry, that it would be preferable to channel these matters through the trade unions. Otherwise we might he opening the door to numerous references to the tribunal which would not be supported by the unions, which might serve no useful purpose, and could conceivably be used as a means of stirring up discontent. There is no question of denying individual workers the right to be heard before the tribunal in a dispute which affected them. That right is secured by paragraphs (c) and (d) of Clause 50(4), and the Amendments do not alter the position in that respect.

I suggest to your Lordships that it is reasonable that the initial reference of a dispute which sets all the machinery in motion should be made by a responsible trade union rather than by an individual member. If a worker is dissatisfied with the way the provisions defining dock work are being interpreted in the port where he works, it is reasonable to expect him to go in the first place to his union and seek to have the matter taken up by the union, provided always that he will still have the right to he heard if the matter is referred to the tribunal.

If I might turn for a moment to the wording of the new subsection (2) which the Amendments would introduce, your Lordships may well think that this is a rather complicated way of expressing the fairly simple provision as I have explained it. I am afraid that the complications of the drafting are unavoidable, and they arise mainly from the difficulties which one runs into if one tries to define a "worker", bearing in mind particularly that it would be necessary for the definition to cover persons who were normally workers but who might not actually be in employment at the material time. Because of these difficulties, the new subsection does not attempt to define a worker. It tackles the problem the other way round and says, in effect, that anyone who is not an employer concerned in the dispute must act through a trade union, except of course for the Dock Labour Board itself and the licensing authority, which may refer disputes direct to the tribunal. The Amendments do not affect the position of individual employers of dockworkers. They will be free to refer a dispute direct to the tribunal, and this I think is obviously right. The provision that workers should act through their trade unions in this matter is one that is supported by both sides of the industry, and I hope that your Lordships will agree that it is desirable to amend the clause in this way.

Despite the length of my speech, so far I have not yet dealt with the first part of Amendments Nos. 8 and 10. These Amendments embody a quite separate point which is in fact a small technical change as regards the time when Clause 50 is to come into force. As the Bill stands, this clause would come into force immediately on Royal Assent. But before it can be operated it will be necessary for the Minister of Labour to make regulations as to the way in which references to the tribunal are to be made and as to the proceedings of the tribunal in dealing with these references. It will be necessary to consult the Council on Tribunals on these procedural regulations, and it is likely to be some little time after the Royal Assent before they can be made. I think your Lordships would agree that it would be undesirable to have Clause 50 come into force before the necessary regulations have been promulgated, and the Amendments therefore have the effect that the clause will come into force on a day to be appointed by the Minister of Labour. It is hoped that the regulations can be made quite shortly after the enactment of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 40, line 4, after ("may") insert ("subject to the provisions of the next following subsection").—[Lord Winterbottom]

5.25 p.m.


We regard Clause 50 as an important and valuable clause. It is certainly useful to have a tribunal able to decide what is dock labour and what is not dock labour. It also, as I understand the clause, represents a very important extension of the Industrial Training Act, which could be a useful precedent, not only in this industry but also in other industries. As such, and in itself, on both counts we welcome the clause. I think I am right in saying that it was quite materially improved in another place, partly on the initiative of the Opposition and partly on the initiative of the Government, by the measures taken to obtain wider access to arbitration. On Report, in another place, the Minister said that the Government would wish to discuss this matter further with both sides of industry. I understand from the noble Lord that the Amendments represent a consensus of opinion of both sides. In view of this, and in view of his explanation, I should like to say straight away that I certainly am agreeable to the Amendment.

On Question Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 40, line 6, at end insert— ("() Where the last-mentioned person is neither the Board, nor a licensing authority nor a person who employs others on dock work in or in the vicinity of a port or on work of any description to which, or at a place to which, the dispute relates, the question to which the dispute relates may only be referred to any such tribunal as aforesaid by a trade union on behalf of that person, but the fact that the question is so referred shall not make the trade union a party to the dispute or prevent that person from being such a party.")—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move this Amendment formally.

Amendment moved—

Page 41, line 7, leave out ("passing of this Act") and insert ("day appointed for the coming into operation of this section. () In this section trade union 'has the same meaning as in the Trade Union Act 1913.")—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question Amendment agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 51 to 57 agreed to.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved, after Clause 57, to insert the following new clause:

Power to amend Acts of local application

".—(1) The appropriate Minister may, after consultation with any harbour authority appearing to him to be concerned, by order repeal or amend any provision contained in a local Act passed before or in the same Session as this Act or in a provisional order confirmed or made before this Act, where it appears to him that the provision is inconsistent with, or has become unnecessary in consequence of, any provision of Part I or II of this Act.

(2) An order under this section may contain such transitional, supplemental or incidental provisions as appear to the appropriate Minister to be expedient.

(3) In this section 'appropriate Minister' means, in relation to an order containing repeals or amendments consequential on a provision of Part I of this Act, the Minister of Transport and, in relation to an order containing repeals or amendments consequential on a provision of Part II of this Act, the Minister of Labour."

The noble Lord said: This new clause which we are inserting at this stage is designed simply to enable the appropriate Minister to effect by order any Statute Law revisions in local Statutes, made necessary in consequence of the provisions of the Bill. There are provisions in local Statutes which,provide for the operation by individual harbour authorities of systems for the licensing of port employers. For example, Sections 81 and 82 of the Clyde Port Authority Order 1965 provide for licensing by the port authority of stevedores, weighers, measurers and master porters; and Clauses 81 and 82 of the current Tees and Hartlepools Port Authority Bill seek to confer similar powers on the new port authority proposed by that Bill. As your Lordships will know, this Bill is in Committee stage in another place.

Such provisions, which make it an offence to operate without a licence granted under the appropriate Local Act, are clearly inconsistent with the licensing provisions contained in this Bill; a licence which is to be sufficient authority for the employment of dock workers. The appropriate Minister—in these cases the Minister of Transport—should be able to tidy up the position by the necessary appeals or amendments. This clause provides him with the required power. A clause on these lines is an accepted method of effecting repeals and amendments to local legislation consequential upon provisions in Public Acts. There are many precedents, including Section 60 of the Harbours Act 1964, Section 35(4) of the Clean Air Act 1956, Section 82 of the Public Health Act 1961, and Section 133 of the Water Resources Act 1963. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 57, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 58 [Short title, commencement and extent]:


I beg to move.

Page 47, line 21, after ("II") insert ("and section 50").—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules agreed to.

In the Title:


This is consequential on the Amendment that I moved some little time ago dealing with wharves and so on. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Line 19, after ("forecasts") insert ("and the promotion of research, training and education").—(Lord Champion.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with Amendments.