HL Deb 15 November 1976 vol 377 cc992-6

13 Page 4, line 12, at end insert— (2C) A definable dock area shall not include any small harbour or any place within half a mile (in a direct line) of a small harbour, being a place which is not also within a similar distance of a harbour to which this Act applies. (2D) In subsection (2C) above "small harbour" means a harbour or wharf—

  1. (a) at which the hours worked in the twelve months ended 3rd December 1975 by a person in loading cargo into, or unloading cargo from, ships did not exceed (on being averaged 993 with the hours so worked by other persons so engaged during that period) 1,350; or
  2. (b) which cannot at mean high water, accommodate ships of a gross registered tonnage more than 1,000 tons; or
  3. (c) where the labour force is employed substantially on a permanent basis and where the terms and conditions of service are not less favourable than the national terms laid down for ports affiliated to the National Joint Council; and for the purposes of this subsection "cargo" and "ship" mean the same as in Schedule 3 to this Act."

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following Reason:

14 Because they would exclude areas within which work should be capable of being considered for classification, Mr. Speaker having cast his vote to retain the Bill in the form in which it left the Commons.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 13 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 14. This Amendment seeks to exclude what we have come to refer to as the "small ports". There is very little which divides your Lordships' House and the other place and the Government and the Opposition on this matter. The Secretary of State said in the Commons debate on the Lords Amendments: I recognise that there are a number of small ports which by their geographical location, irregular nature of cargoes and a number of other factors, will not be suited for the Dock Work Regulation scheme. I would not lay before the House a Bill which would have the effect of requiring every small port to be included in the Scheme if those factors did not apply. Therefore, my Lords, there is no disagreement about the objectives of ensuring that small ports are not subject to the Scheme where its application would be both irrelevant and absurd. The Government are objecting to the means proposed in these Amendments to achieve that objective. They believe that the Bill contains in Clauses 7 and 8 adequate and satisfactory procedures to deal with small harbours. Those clauses deal with the small harbour question far more effectively than the criteria contained in Lords Amendment No. 13, since they already provide for the Board to take account of all relevant considerations, and in particular whether the work requires for its efficient performance the engage- ment of a permanent labour force. The Government have repeatedly stated their view that absolute exclusion of particular places, either by name or by reference to some standard criteria of the kind proposed in the Amendment, is not a sensible way to proceed precisely because there is such a wide variety of factors that could be relevant. The exclusions proposed would work in a completely arbitrary and unsatisfactory way.

In view of the repeated assurances given about the Government's intention towards small ports, and since the House would be able to study the effect of those assurances as classification of work as dock work could take place only after statutory orders had been laid before both Houses, we would hope that your Lordships would not wish to insist upon these Amendments.

Moved, that this House doth not insist on the said Amendment, to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 14.—(Lord Oram.)


My Lords, I wonder whether the Government could clarify a little what the situation will now be. As I understand it, under the Bill as it came to us in the first place, although various assurances were given in another place at Second Reading and later, there was going to be the possibility of those administering small ports having to provide particulars in some detail to either the National Dock Labour Board or the local dock labour board so that such boards could determine whether or not they should leave such ports alone—if that is the right phrase. One of the things which concerned the people in small ports was that, even if they were going to be left alone—because they were so small and because they fell into the general pattern which the noble Lord has reassured us yet again the Government are not seeking to cover in this Bill—they were going to be troubled (if that is the phrase) by having to produce a lot of facts and figures which, normally speaking, they would not produce. They would be required to go to the trouble and expense of collecting these figures for the benefit of the Board, so that it could make its decision.

I am not quite clear whether, under the Bill as amended after the Government have moved and carried the Amendments now before us, the small ports will be spared unnecessary collation of facts and figures, or not. I suspect it might be a little difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Oram, to provide me with an answer immediately, but I should be most grateful if he could provide such an answer. If the local dock labour board or the National Dock Labour Board are going to make such impositions on small port operators, could he see his way to preventing that in obviously ridiculous cases? It may be that this could be achieved administratively rather than by prolonging Amendments to this Bill. Would it be possible for him to give me some reassurance?


My Lords, the noble Lord is right; that procedure does still remain for requiring information in the way he suggests, but I think it will be administered in a common sense way. There is no need to trammell ports unnecessarily, but we believe there is a need to examine circumstances in all small ports. I understand the noble Lord's anxiety and I will, if I may, write to him at greater length.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord.


My Lords, before we dispose of this, I wonder whether I might ask for guidance as to how we are proceeding. I find it extremely mystifying. We have two Papers before us on Lords Amendments to the Dock Work Regulation Bill, and at the moment I am not sure whether we are working on the second Paper in regard to the Amendments and on the first Paper in regard to the Commons reasons for disagreeing with the Amendments. I was not quite clear what happened on the last Amendment, because I was not clear which No. 11 we were talking about. If we were talking about No. 11 on the original paper, then I think I was right in hearing that this House did not insist on that Amendment, but if we are talking about No. 11 on the second paper, it would be a case of this House agreeing with the Commons in their Amendment. I wonder whether I could have some clarification on this. Otherwise we are going to get in rather a mess.


My Lords, I hope we can avoid that. So far we have been dealing with this document marked at the bottom No. 382, but later either I or my noble friend Lord Jacques will be moving Amendments; so far we have not had to do that; we have been considering the Commons Reasons. Later, the other paper will come into play.


With great respect, the reason for asking was that we proceeded, as I understood it, straight from an Amendment on page 4, line 4, to an Amendment on page 4, line 12, whereas one of the new Amendments was "page 4, leave out lines 11 and 12 and insert the new words proposed by the Commons". We seem to have left that out for the moment. I was wondering what we could do about it.


My reference is to page 4, line 13, which would put the matter in order. It may be that the document to which the noble Lord referred is an older version; I am not sure.


It is possible that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is speaking to the document printed on 8th November, whereas we are dealing with the document printed on 11th November.


May I clarify this point. Do I understand that when we come to the new Commons Amendments they will be dealt with as and when they arise, at the end of our procceedings?




If I may add to Lord Drumalbyn's bewilderment, he referred to the two printed sets of Amendments. We find in the Printed Paper Office that there are two typewritten sets of Amendments.


Hear, hear!


It is all part of the confusion.


I trust we are all ad idem about what we are talking about.

On Question, Motion agreed to.