HL Deb 13 October 1976 vol 375 cc298-372

2.57 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Jacques.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Reconstitution of Board as body corporate]:

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 12, leave out ("twelve") and insert ("sixteen").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 at the same time. They are a series of Amendments. The first proposes to amend the Bill so far as the National Dock Labour Board is concerned. The port users believe that representation, as laid down in the Bill, will be inadequate. The main purpose of the three Amendments is to ensure that additional members may be appointed or nominated to the Board, and that these members will be able to represent interests other than those already represented through the National Joint Council. The dock and cargo handling industry has expanded greatly, not just over the past 30 years but considerably over the past nine or ten years. These Amendments we hope cover users of the ports and other operators in the ports who might become involved in the scope of the Bill as it stands at the moment.

We hope that the membership can be broadened to take in representatives of other workers who would not be covered by the statutory trade union representation. We believe that four representatives are not enough. The classification of dock work, as set out in the Bill, is going to be much broader than was at first apparent. Every effort must be made to remove the plain fifty/fifty, port employer/port union structure for the Board, while at the same time ensuring a balanced and even structure. There is, we understand, one recent precedent which has been expressed by the Plowden Inquiry into the electricity supply industry, and we hope that the Government will see their way clear to consider that precedent in relation to the National Dock Labour Board.

We also believe that it is essential to have a substantial number of members of the Board who are knowledgeable of the problems of industry outside the docks and as it will be affected by this Scheme if it comes into operation. At the same time, the powers of these representatives, as laid down in. the Scheme, are not, we believe, as full or as wide as we could hope. There will be many whose jobs and whose businesses will be affected by possible future classification and that is the main reason for moving this series of Amendments.

There are also the workers' representatives, and there will be other unions beyond the docker section of the Transport and General Workers' Union. The impact of the Bill will be much wider than just on port employees and on port employers—indeed all of us here, as laymen, can be considered to be interested in port work and in cargo handling. There will be a great effect on prices, on consumers, on industry and on other workers all over the country. That is why we believe that the interests of employers, of employees and of outside interests should be protected and represented in a Scheme and with a Dock Labour Board of this nature.

We believe also that the local and National dock labour boards should work in harmony, but at all times these boards must reflect interests as may be necessary. We should be grateful to have the Government's view on how the National Dock Labour Board are going to administer the Scheme and whether or not that Board will be able to extend their jurisdiction to other matters which are not immediately apparent in these Amendments, or indeed in the Bill. We believe that this series of three Amendments is very germane to the entire Scheme. It is for those reasons that I beg to move this Amendment.


May I, from these Benches, support Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, to the extent that we believe that it would be desirable that the Board should be larger than is at the moment contemplated. Indeed, it is desirable that the eight members appointed on the nomination of the National Joint Council in subsection (3) of the Bill should not automatically be in a majority as against the other members.

Having said that about Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, may I venture to add a caveat so far as concerns Amendment No. 3, which I hope it will not be considered necessary following upon Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. The caveat is simply that it seems to us that there is a growing, tendency, which ought to be resisted, for national bodies which are appointed to administer a national industry in the national interest to become more and more comprised of members nominated or appointed to represent specific interests rather than the interests of the community as a whole. In the docks industry particularly we have seen in recent years that disciplinary problems have arisen because of the automatic division of the tribunal trying any disciplinary problem into representatives of the employers and representatives of the employees, and in the result they line up automatically on either side, whatever the merits of the specific dispute.

Amendment No. 3 now proposes that there should be four further members of the Board nominated by the CBI and four nominated by the TUC. We venture to suggest that that is undesirable. It is undesirable because the CBI does not represent all the employers any more than the TUC represents the whole of the work force. It is undesirable because neither the CBI nor the TUC is a statutory body. They may or may not exist in their present form in a year or two's time when it is proposed that provisions of this sort should take effect. Without wanting to exaggerate the matter, we suggest that this proposal—for example in subsection (3) of Clause 1—that there should be four members of the Board representing dock employers and four representing the dock workers, and now under Amendment No. 3 four representing the CBI and four representing the TUC is really all part of the general drift in these days towards the corporate state which ought to be resisted.

We on these Benches are all in favour of the Secretary of State's consulting in the widest possible direction the widest possible variety of bodies in order to make his appointments to the Board, but we suggest that it is far better, after he has made those appointments, that the members of the Board should consider themselves free to act as they see the proper interest of the Board as a whole and the community as a whole, rather than that they should be there as nominees of a particular organisation or body of people with an obvious duty to promote a sectional interest.


The Government could not accept these Amendments for three reasons. First of all, if these Amendments were carried the Board would be unnecessarily large in number. At the present time the National Dock Labour Board consists of 10 members. We propose under the Bill that there should be four additional members to represent outside interests, making 14. The Amendments would increase that number to 18. There is a consensus of opinion that a Board of this size should have something like 10 to 15 members, and we agree with that consensus. As the noble Lord will be aware, his right honourable friend Mr. Prior led for the Opposition on this Bill in the other place, and in Committee he said at column 26 of the Official Report on the first day: We felt on the whole that a Board of 14 was right. I had my ear to the ground last week and I heard noises from Brighton which told me of the unity of the Party opposite. I hope they will demonstrate that unity by falling behind Mr. Prior on this particular subject.

There is a second reason why we cannot accept this Amendment, and that is that we think it would be unreasonable to the industry. Remember that the primary function of this Board from now will be to administer the Dock Labour Scheme. That is its primary function, and the Scheme is paid for by the industry. Consequently it would be unreasonable to expect the industry to accept a minority position on the Board. At the present time the National Joint Council for the industry appoints eight out of 10. Under the Bill they will appoint eight out of 14. Under the Amendment it would be eight out of 18. They would be a minority. I say, quite bluntly, that if I were a trade union leader in the dock industry that would not be acceptable to me, and I suggest to the noble Lord that if he were an employer in the same industry, an employer paying for the Scheme, it would not be acceptable to him.

I come now to the third reason, which has been hinted at by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, and it is the most powerful reason of all. All of us believe that there should be outside representation on this Board and consequently the Bill provides that there shall be four additional members appointed, not on the nomination of the TUC or the CBI but appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation with those bodies. But that is not what the Amendment says. What the Amendment says is that they shall be appointed on the nomination of the CBI and the TUC, which means that they would have discretion. They could appoint people who are already in the industry and there could be no outsiders whatever under this Amendment. Indeed, they would be under pressure to do so, because the industry would be in a minority on the Board and both the CBI and the TUC would be under pressure to appoint people from within the industry so that the industry would have a majority on the Board. I hope with that, the noble Lord will take into account the criticism I made of his Amendment and will consider withdrawing it.


Before we come to any conclusion about this—because if there is a Division we are expected to take part—can my noble friend say whether those additional members to whom he has just referred would be nominated not by the CBI or the TUC but by the Secretary of State? Could he say who those people will be, where they will come from and who they will represent? Will they, for example, be people representing consumers? Secondly, on the assumption that at some time or other there may be some disputation on the newly appointed Board, perhaps between the TUC and CBI representatives or—and perhaps much more likely—between both those bodies and the ten members of the Dock Labour Board, who would adjudicate? Would it be the Secretary of State or would it be done by means of a tribunal?


In answer to the first question, I can only say that the Bill will authorise the Secretary of State to make those appointments, after consultation with the CBI and the TUC. It is the intention of the Secretary of State that two shall come from the workers' side and two from the employers' side outside the industry. Beyond that, I am afraid I cannot go in answering that question. I think the noble Lord had a second question.


The question was whether, in the event of some disputation arising on this newly appointed body, the matter would be referred to some outside body or whether it would be left to the discretion of the Secretary of State.


I can only have regard to what has happened in the past: in the case of such a dispute, the matter would be referred to the Secretary of State.


In rising to support my noble friend in regard to this matter, may I draw his attention to the fact that so far as the nationalised industries are concerned, and particularly the one I come from, mining, in no circumstances would the NUM make nominations as regards anybody coming to sit on the National Coal Board. My noble friend Lord Shinwell knows this to be correct, because he was the Minister who put through the Bill. The Minister could draw the attention of the union to the fact that he would like to enlarge the Board or that the Board ought to be represented by this, that or the other. I think that my noble friend, in answer to this particular issue, should say that the issue is open and that the CBI and the TUC, who are the two parent bodies, one representing the industry and the other representing the workers, is a good line of approach. They ought to be taken into consultation without being made responsible for nominations as to who should serve on the particular Board.

3.15 p.m.


I am not quite certain how far we can regard what was done in an industry 30 years ago as relevant to what we are trying to do now. But apart from that, I should like to put one or two points to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, because he seems to be arguing two separate things. He is saying, first, that this Board has wider responsibilities than just those who are engaged in the immediate industry and the representatives of the National Joint Council, and, on the other hand, that the National Joint Council, representing both sides of the industry, ought to have a majority on the Board. I am not quite sure how far those things are compatible.

The noble Lord referred to the four members to be appointed by the Secretary of State, and he said that two of them would come from the workers' side and two from the employers' side. But that leaves out altogether any wider representation, in the sense of representation of the public at large. If we are to have these four people nominated from the workers and the employers, and if we are not to increase the size of the Board, the eight members coming from the National Joint Council could be reduced in number. I am not certain that this might not be a better answer, for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Lyell.

As we understand it, there are many more people affected than simply the dock workers and the dock employers in the whole operation of this Bill. I should have thought, in those circumstances, that it was right radically to change the composition of the Board in the kinds of proportions indicated by my noble friend. If eight and eight are too many, one could quite easily have six and six, possibly with representation from the wider interests, the consumer interests as well. I do not think the noble Lord has answered that point; and one has to remember the central fact here, that the present Dock Labour Board is essentially an administrative Board, whereas the new Dock Labour Board, it appears, will also have at any rate the possibility, if not the actual expectation, of extending its own limits and its own authority. It will be a different kind of Board altogether, and that should be very much reflected in the composition of the Board. I think this should be borne in mind in deciding the composition.

3.18 p.m.


I should like to take up two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, because I do not think he has fairly compared like with like. The old Dock Labour Board had administrative powers within very limited areas; but the new Bill, in some areas, is increasing the territory over which the Dock Labour Board will have power to ten times the previous territory. Taking into consideration the South-West, it increases to about 20 times the area of territory, and of course there will be firms within that territory who would be affected. Therefore I would support the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, and my noble friend Lord Lyell when they say that this ignores a very specialised and very knowledgeable representation of industries which could very well be affected by this much wider territory over which the new Board will have authority.

I cannot agree with the noble Lord who tried to compare this situation with that of the Coal Board, because here we really are not comparing like with like. The Coal Board deals only with coal in every region. This Bill will give power and authority to this Board over every type and kind of industry, and agriculture, that imports or exports, in relation to its warehousing, the transport of its goods, and so on. It really is not good enough to try to pretend that there is a fair comparison between a one-commodity industry such as coal and the appalling effect on all our import and export industries that could result under this Bill from the abuse of these powers, given over so wide a territory.


As the noble Baroness has made reference to the remarks I made and to the example that I gave in support of my noble friend, will she not agree that my noble friend said—and it was objected to by the noble Earl on the other side—in moving his Amendment, that the responsibility for the nomination and appointment of these new people to the Board would be given to the Secretary of State? I think that the noble Baroness has overlooked that feature. If the noble Baroness were to examine the position again she would find that instead of renouncing the application within the Amendments which have been so ably moved by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, on the other side and supported by the Liberal Benches, with the exception of the third Amendment, the line adopted by my noble friend in seeking to approach these Amendments, the questions which have been put to him and the answers which he has given, is the right one.


I am afraid that I cannot accept the proposition put forward by the noble Lord because I am not all that confident that the interests of the many sides of industry can be fairly represented by limited nominations, even though they are made by the Secretary of State.

3.22 p.m.


I should like to take up with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, his opening remarks about the size of the Board, since he made a great distinction between 14 and 18. Certainly it is my experience, and I suspect that it is his, that size does not make very much difference once one gets beyond 10. It is absolutely true that if a Board is of the rough size of 10 it is much easier to handle; it can reach decisions more readily, although inevitably if it is that small it will not represent the kind of interests that the Government, let alone ourselves, are thinking about. However, once one goes beyond 10 it seems to me to be ridiculous to make a special point about whether 14 people are more manageable than 18. That is quite apart from the fact that in the case of Boards like this everybody does not turn up at each meeting; so we are speaking in practical terms of something like 16 out of 18, or 12 out of 14. I suggest that this is not a major issue and one which the noble Lord may think was not really worth putting forward.


The point that I should like to take up with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, stems from his remark that the Board will be representative, on the one hand, of the worker and, on the other hand, of the employer. It seems to me to be quite the wrong premise upon which to start, that already we are drawing lines. On the one side of the line is one group and on the other side another group. What this new Board has to do is to join forces for the betterment of everybody involved. The very expression that the noble Lord uses seems to pre-determine a position and this worries me very much. Having got, in the noble Lord's own words, these two groups, because of the numbers they cannot be representative of all the people who are involved.

If one looks at the people who are working in the dock they are represented by a large number of unions, a large number of activities. It is a great pity in general terms that one industry is represented by so many different unions. On the other side, the employers are anticipating an extension of activity within the ambit of the Bill, yet they are so poorly represented by their numbers. As the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said, the function of the new Board will be to extend the activities. How, in an extension of activities, can all the interests be properly represented by this minimal increase in numbers?

There are new users coming into the docks activity. Whether the National Joint Council can represent all of those new users, some of which we have not yet identified, I do not know, but it would be quite wrong that we should come back to Parliament in five, six or 10 years' time in order to seek Amendments to a Bill of this kind. Surely the right thing to do is to make adequate provision in terms of representation of the various interests by having a sufficiently large number of people. Indeed, the recent technology of roll-on/roll-off boats in the South Coast ports is an illustration of this. Where can that new interest be represented? Certainly it cannot be represented in the National Joint Council which is already looking after the more traditional elements.

The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has ably put the point that after 10—my own figure would have been 11—the numbers are not very material, but it is important that those who work in the dock, those who employ workers in the dock and those who use the dock should at least feel that they have the avenue of representation. The numbers suggested in the Bill are inadequate to provide this representation. I think that my noble friend Lord Lyell should be supported in his Amendment to give this spread of opportunity, not for that which we see today but for that which might be around the corner tomorrow.


I support Amendment No. 1 and consequentially Amendment No. 2, for it introduces the first step in providing the possibility that the consumer will be represented on the Board. It has been accepted by the whole Committee that the effect of the Bill must cause an increase in prices, although the Government will not so admit. However, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it can be helpful only if the country as a whole should have a voice in the deliberations of the Board and that its membership should not be restricted to those from within the industry. I mildly regret the increase in the size of the Board, for slimmer ones work better, but a balanced reduction of the other representatives might have been an alternative solution. However, it is imperative that the consumer has the chance to mitigate the harm which is being done and I urge your Lordships to support the Amendment.

Viscount SIMON

Before the noble Lord replies to these many points which have been made, may I put one other to him. Will he explain the comment that he made in reply to his noble friend Lord Shinwell in which, if I heard him aright, he suggested that if there were a dispute in the Board it would be settled by the Secretary of State? I should have thought that that was (a) quite undesirable and (b) not included in the Bill.

3.29 p.m.


If I may reply to the last point first, I did not suggest that it was included in the Bill. I said that, being guided by past practice, I should imagine that the reference would be to the Secretary of State rather than to some kind of public inquiry. The principal function of this Board, as of the present Board, will be to administer the Dock Labour Scheme. That is to be their primary function: the industry provides the money and this Board spends it upon the administration of the Scheme. For example, it handles severance pay for the industry, deals with recruitment, and so on.

It would be quite unreasonable to expect the industry, when it pays for the administration of a Scheme which will apply to that industry and that industry only, to accept the position that the Board should have a majority of people upon it who did not come from the industry. I suggest, as I suggested earlier, that if I were associated with that industry I should not accept that position and, let us be quite candid about it, there are very few people in this Committee who would do so, either. It depends upon which side of the fence you are on.

It is true that under the Bill the Board will have wider responsibilities in connection with the spreading of the Scheme to the non-Scheme ports and certain other classification of work. It is for that reason that the Government have insisted that there should be four additional members from outside the industry. These four additional members will be consumers just as much as everybody in this Committee is a consumer. It may well be that two will be workers and two employers, but they will not have the worker or the employer interest of that industry; they will be outside that industry and therefore they could as well represent the consumer interest as anyone else.

As to the size of the Board, I think it is important that we should try to get the right size and from the quotation that I gave your Lordships, Mr. Prior, leading for the Opposition in the other place, thought it was important that we should get the right size. He went further and said that we had got the right size in the Bill. I believe that the right size for a Board of this kind is somewhere between 10 and 15. Once you get over 15 it is burdensome. I believe a Board of 18 would be burdensome.

I would also remind your Lordships that since the inception of the Scheme, the National Joint Council of the industry have had eight representatives. Ultimately, the Scheme will be a much wider Scheme, but they are to continue to have only eight representatives—not more than eight. Consequently, they are being curtailed and the extension is entirely for people outside the industry. I feel that the provisions of the Bill fit the problem as well as it can be fitted and I certainly could not give any promise to go back and advocate a larger Board.

3.32 p.m.


We are grateful to the noble Lord for his observations and thankful for the courteous way in which he put them over, but we are not entirely satisfied. However, the noble Lord did start by quoting what my right honourable friend in another place, Mr. Prior, said on Committee. Perhaps the noble Lord will take it from me that Mr. Prior mentioned this position when he came to consider the Bill in another place on Report, and I am sure that if the noble Lord cares to look at the Report in Hansard of 26th July' in another place, he will find that Mr. Prior said: What is important, as we have stressed all through, is that the National Dock Labour Board should take into account the interests of consumers, the interests of users of the port, the interests of workers other than dock workers, and the interests particularly of employers other than dock employers."—[Official Report, Commons, 26/7/76; col. 37.] That is what I was stressing in putting forward this Amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, raised a second point, that trade union leaders and employers who are involved in the dock industry would not accept the increased size of the Board. Speaker after speaker all round the House has said that the dock and cargo handling industry is so large that it covers far more than the mere interests of that industry. The noble Lord mentioned that there was nomination by the TUC and the CBI. So far as we can see, the alternative as advocated in the Bill is possibly nomination by another term—perhaps we might call it patronage by the Secretary of State—but we still do not believe that there will be adequate protection of all interests without the Amendment, which we believe to be reasonably necessary.

We have heard much about the consumer's interests. We believe that those interests must be adequately protected, and "consumers" covers a very wide band of the population. It is not just housewives, or consumer associations or anybody like that. It is industries and anybody who is importing or exporting through the ports and, indeed, many other trades and skills apart from what we understand as cargo handling and dock work. We are not entirely satisfied with the noble Lord's reply to these Amendments. He may be surprised to hear that certainly we do not wish to wreck the Bill at this early stage. After all, we have been discussing it for under thirty minutes. I must say that the Government's attitude on this series of Amendments is not entirely promising, particularly in view of what the noble Lord said about my right honourable friend in another place, and how he believed that 14, 16 or 18 was or was not the right number. Yet my right honourable friend, who is, I believe, an entirely consistent man, pointed out that other interests had to be taken into account when composing this Board.


Other interests have been taken into account. The Bill provides that there shall be four additional Members representing outside interests and the Amendment provides for eight to be nominated by the CBI and the TUC, but there is no guarantee that they will represent outside interests. Those bodies could be under pressure to appoint from within the industry, and they would be.


Would the noble Lord take it that the same argument goes for the four just as for the eight?


No, I am sorry; it does not, because in the case of the four the CBI and the TUC are simply consulted. The Secretary of State makes the appointments and he will see that they are outside people. Under the Amendment, the additional members are nominated by the CBI and the TUC and they will be under very strong pressure to nominate from within the industry, if the Board has a minority in the industry. They will obviously seek to get a majority through the trade associations and the trade unions.


Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt for just one moment? I am not thrilled at all about the Secretary of State having those powers.


I should have expected that.


We are grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, but really we believe that even though these eight are to be nominated they will obtain a wider spread of interests than the mere nomination or patronage, as I call it, of four people even though the Secretary of State may wish to make up his own mind and use his own judgment. We on these Benches believe that the pressures on the Secretary of State will be just the same as they are from the two respective sides of the port employers and the port employees. Nevertheless, we think that in view of the very wide-ranging debate that has gone on we should like to consult further. That is why, albeit fairly reluctantly, I would seek to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.38 p.m.

Lord TREFGARNE moved Amendment No. 4: Page 1, line 21, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 is a paving Amendment and it happens that it paves the way not only for my Amendment No. 5, but also for the Amendment standing in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—that is to say, Amendment No. 6.

While being very disappointed in the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, to the last group of Amendments, I am none the less fortified in the reaction to the proposals that he may be able to see his way clear to a more accommodating attitude to this Amendment. The warehousing industry is very widely represented at docks and docksides, both on waterways as defined in a later stage in the Bill and also, of course, at the many harbours.

It is impossible to imagine, apart from the shipping companies themselves, an industry more intimately involved in the activities of ports and harbours than the warehousing industry, and I put it to your Lordships that they above all people ought to be consulted concerning representation on the Board that we are establishing in this clause. The National Association of Warehousekeepers is not a particularly well organised body from the point of view of trade unions. Although the TUC no doubt have many members who work in warehouses, they are not the same union at all as the Transport and General Workers and in general they do not follow the same lines. It is for that reason that I am suggesting to your Lordships that the Association so intimately involved in the matters and proposals in this Bill ought really to be consulted on the membership of the Board. I beg to move.

Baroness VICKERS

I should like to support my noble friend very briefly in this Amendment because I think these people do an extremely important service to the country. So far as I understand it, they own 70 per cent. of the total warehouse space. I mentioned this, in column 618 of the Official Report, at Second Reading. I was thinking particularly then of the foodstuffs in the warehouses and cold stores. As I understand it, it is essential that these be kept at correct temperatures because if that is not done this can ruin the contents in these warehouses and cold stores. These men are experts in their job and I gather that at the present time 70 per cent. of the area occupied by the Association's members falls in the handling zone so this will make it very difficult for them to continue their normal work.

Also, as I understand it, public warehouses operated for many centuries in this country before the dock workers were registered. It is a very old industry going back to Roman history. It is for these reasons which I have put very briefly—the absolute necessity for our food and other commodities to be kept in the right temperatures, which can be done, I suggest, only by these real experts, and that it is not a new industry but has served a purpose over many centuries—that I beg to support my noble friend's Amendment.


I believe that these people have a further function and that is in the re-export trade, which is vitally important to this country. The breaking of bulk imports and the re-export in smaller vessels to the continent of Europe, and so on, has long been a great tradition of this country. If the working of the ports becomes so expensive that Antwerp and Rotterdam become cheaper, the great ships will sail to Rotterdam and Antwerp, bulk will be broken there and those countries will get the benefit of the re-export trade. For that reason these people have a very vital interest in keeping the handling of our ports at the cheapest possible level so that we can compete in the international re-export trade.


As I believe warehousemen will be well represented under the terms of the Bill, could we be told what the membership of this Association is and what proportion of warehousemen it actually represents?


By leave of the Committee, may I intervene once more? My information is that about 70 per cent. of all the warehouses in operation in the United Kingdom are members of this Association and about 70 per cent. of those are to be found within the regions which will be covered by this Bill if it goes through Parliament as at present drafted.


I think I should just remind the Committee that the National Dock Labour Board is not going to manage the industry. All that the Board is going to do is to manage the Scheme and the object of the Scheme is to decasualise work. While some of the work undertaken by members of the National Association of Warehousekeepers is certainly among the work which could be classified under the Bill, there are a number of other employers' associations in a similar position—for example, the National Cold Store Federation. It would not be practical to require consultation with all such associations before appointing these members of the Board. The employers in question will almost all be individually or through their trade association in membership of the CBI and their interests can therefore be adquately represented through the CBI. I would add that if we were forced to consult individual trade associations on the employers' side it would not end there. Then each trade union would want to be consulted instead of just the TUC.


Of course trade unions are consulted. They only have to go on strike and any one of them can be consulted.


I do not think that strikes have anything to do with this question. It is not practical, and this has been the position when the Opposition have been in power and have had similar Bills. They have told us time after time that it is not practical to consult the individual trade associations and the individual trade unions. These trade unions are affiliated to the TUC and the employers' associations to the CBI and it is practical to consult two bodies and to get their opinions and take them into account, but not to consult every trade association of employers and every trade union of employees. I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his Amendment on the ground that it is not a practical proposition.


Is the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, really satisfied that every trade association should be consulted? Is he aware that there is very widespread concern throughout this industry and in warehouses which have been described by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, and indeed by others, and that there are three very substantial trade unions which are concerned in this industry? Maybe the noble Lord does not believe it, but we can produce evidence—perhaps even within minutes, if he wishes—which has been presented to us that members of these three large trade unions are not entirely satisfied with their position and their employment prospects under the Bill as it stands. Would the noble Lord accept that?


I would not accept that. I would tell the noble Lord that the TUC, representing all those trade unions, including those referred to by the noble Lord—and some of them are on the Council of the TUC—is quite happy with the Bill as it stands.


I am not going to pursue the argument on consultation with the trade unions. My Amendment has nothing to do with that. I am simply saying that consultation ought to be required with one of the principal employers in the dock areas. There are, I have no doubt, other employers as well and very likely they ought to be consulted too, but I am not moving an Amendment on that at this point. I am simply endeavouring to rectify one defect in this Bill. There are numerous defects in this Bill, to my mind, and it is not possible for me personally to move Amendments to rectify every single defect. My noble friends Lord Lyell and Lord Gowrie are moving a whole string of Amendments to this Bill which we all hope will rectify some of the worst defects, but this is a Government Bill and it is the Government who should rectify the defects in it, not us. However, here is one defect which I am trying to rectify.


May I ask my noble friend a question? Is it within his knowledge that when this matter was considered by the TUC and also by the CBI, because both bodies are very much concerned, in the case of the TUC they must have consulted those other unions which are interested and similarly, so far as the CBI were concerned and involved, they must have consulted a variety of other interests which are associated with the CBI in one form or another? Is that within his knowledge because, if the TUC consulted a variety of similar interests and were satisfied, and if the CBI, representing other interests, were also consulted and were quite satisfied, is not that all the consultation that is required?


I may say that in the case of the TUC there were such consultations as my noble friend has mentioned. I am not aware of the procedure in the CBI, but if there is going to be a Division on this Amendment let me point out—


On a point of order, is the noble Lord allowed to continue his speech?


There cannot be a point of order. This is a Committee stage and when an Amendment is moved that initiates a discussion. It does not end the discussion; it initiates it. I just want to point out that if there is to be a Division I hope we shall get it straight that when the Opposition are in Government they insist that it is not practicable to consult individual trade associations of employers and individual trade unions. They have done that time after time. This is not new to us. We are just doing what previous Conservative Governments have done, and if noble Lords opposite vote for this Amendment they will be acting very inconsistently.


Good gracious!

3.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 137; Not-Contents, 69.

Airedale, L. Elles, B. Mottistone, L.
Alport, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Amherst, E. Emmet of Amberley, B. Moyne, L.
Amory, V. Erskine of Rerrick, L. Newall, L.
Ampthill, L. Ferrers, E. Northchurch, B.
Amulree, L. [Teller.] Gage, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Auckland, L. Gisborough, L. Platt, L.
Avebury, L. Gladwyn, L. Powis, E.
Balerno, L. Glasgow, E. Radnor, E.
Banks, L. Glenkinglas, L. Rathcavan, L.
Barnby, L. Goschen, V. Redesdale, L.
Barrington, V. Gowrie, E. Rochdale, V.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Granville of Eye, L. Sackville, L.
Belstead, L. Gray, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Berkeley, B. Greenway, L. St. Davids, V.
Birdwood, L. Grey, L. Salisbury, M.
Bledisloe, V. Gridley, L. Sandford, L.
Boothby, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sandys, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Selkirk, E.
Brentford, V. Hankey, L. Sharples, B.
Burnham, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L. Simon, V.
Byers, L. Hawke, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Caccia, L. Hives, L. Somers, L.
Cairns, E. Hornsby-Smith, B. Spens, L.
Caithness, E. Howe, E. Stamp, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Ilchester, E. Strathclyde, L.
Carrington, L. Kemsley, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Clancarty, E. Kimberley, E. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Clitheroe, L. Kinloss, Ly. Strathspey, L.
Clwyd, L. Kinnaird, L. Sudeley, L.
Colwyn, L. Lauderdale, E. Terrington, L.
Cottesloe, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Thomas, L.
Cromartie, E. Loudoun, C. Tranmire, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]
Daventry, V. Luke, L. Trevelyan, L.
de Clifford, L. Lyell, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Denham, L. Mackie of Benshie, L. Vickers, B.
Deramore, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Vivian, L.
Derwent, L. McNair, L. Wade, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Marley, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Dudley, B. Middleton, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Duncan-Sandys, L, Monck, V. Westbury, L.
Dundee, E. Monk Bretton, L. Wigoder, L.
Ebbisham, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L. Young, B.
Eccles, V. Morris, L.
Aylestone, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Bacon, B. Harris of Greenwich, L. Rusholme, L.
Blyton, L. Henderson, L. Sainsbury, L.
Brimelow, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Segal, L.
Brockway, L. Jacques, L. Shinwell, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Janner, L. Slater, L.
Champion, L. Kirkhill, L. Snow, L.
Chorley, L. Leatherland, L. Soper, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Southwark, Bp.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Longford, E. Stedman, B.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Cudlipp, L. Lyons of Brighton, L. Stone, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. McCluskey, L. Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Maelor, L. Summerskill, B.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Maybray-King, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Melchett, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Murray of Gravesend, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Oram, L. Williamson, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Paget of Northampton, L. Willis, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Pannell, L. Wilson of High Wray, L.
Fulton, L. Pargiter, L. Winterbottom, L. [Teller.]
Gardiner, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal) Wooton of Abinger, B.
Garner, L. Raglan, L. Wynne-Jones, L.

4.2 p.m.

Lord TREFGARNE moved Amendment No. 5: Page 1, line 22, at end insert ("and the National Association of Warehousekeepers").

The noble Lord said: This is the Amendment for which we have just paved the way. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord WIGODER moved Amendment No. 6: Page 1, line 22, at end insert ("and the National Consumer Council").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 6, which is a modest Amendment designed to add the National Consumer Council to the list of bodies in subsection (4) of Clause 1 which are to be consulted by the Secretary of State when he appoints the remaining four members of the Board. The object of this Amendment is to give recognition to the fact that this Bill not only creates a situation in which there is a cosy carve-up within the docks of a domestic area of activity between employers and employees, but creates also matters which are of vital importance to the consumer as a whole. That is an issue which has already been raised in some of the observations when Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 were debated.

If I may say so, I was astonished to hear the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, say that the existing National Dock Labour Scheme was paid for by the industry. I do not accept that at all. It is not paid for by the industry; it is paid for by the consumer. It is paid for every time a housewife goes to do her shopping. What concerns us on these Benches about the Bill is that it will very materially add to the burden that the housewife will have to bear in future. If that be so, it is only common sense that the consumers, through the only appropriate body, which I think is the National Consumer Council, should be among those consulted by the Secretary of State.

When I say that this Bill will increase the burden to be borne by the consumer, I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, one or two questions, of which I gave him what little notice I could this morning. First of all, does the noble Lord seriously dispute that the result of this Bill will be that employers who are not at present paying the levy will in future have to do so? If so, must that not inevitably to some extent increase costs? Can the noble Lord give us some estimate of the amount by which costs are thus to be increased? Secondly, does the Bill not inevitably mean that some employees in future will be paid for doing a week's work even when they are not actually doing a week's work? One understands that that is the situation in the docks, and one understands well the historical reasons why that extraordinary situation has arisen. But does that not mean that costs will increase? If so, can the noble Lord tell us what the estimate of the Government is of how much is involved in that direction?

Thirdly, this Bill, if it is passed into law, will extend the Scheme to small, non-Scheme ports where, at the moment, there is a very limited amount of casual labour perfectly happily and contentedly employed. If the Bill is brought into force, does it not mean either that those small non-Scheme ports will have to close down, with a consequent increase in the cost of distribution of foodstuffs in the vicinity of those ports, or alternatively that they will be put to substantially increased expense in employing full-time labour in accordance with the Scheme? If that is so, can the noble Lord give some indication of the amount of money thus to be spent in that direction? Finally, is the noble Lord aware that the National Cold Storage Federation has estimated that if this Scheme is implemented it will increase the costs of handling goods by as much as £6 per ton? Have the Government made any investigation into those figures? Can they either confirm that they are correct or, alternatively, indicate what, in the Government's estimate, the correct figures will be? If, in all these circumstances, a substantial extra burden will be placed on the consumer, it is at least common sense that the consumer should have a still, small voice and be consulted when the Board is established. I beg to move.


I agree with almost every argument that has been adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. His argument was impeccable, but I reject his conclusion. I reject it because almost everything for which the noble Lord is asking—and he has a right to ask—is contained in Clause 2. If one examines Clause 2, one discovers that the Board is responsible for the administration and for the general conduct of the organisation. The Board has to take into account almost every consideration affecting the national interests, affecting the workers themselves and affecting those associated with the business. I must confess to having some doubts about the effectiveness of consumer councils. We have a number of these consumer councils. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, who is Chairman of the Post Office Consumer Council is not present, because I would rather say this in his presence than behind his back. This Consumer Council has been operating for quite a long time and the longer it operates the worse the service of the Post Office becomes. I do not blame the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, and his Consumer Council because of it, but the fact of the matter is that these consumer councils talk and talk. I am not objecting to talking—I am a bit of a talker myself, and I do not denigrate the profession. But that is really all it amounts to. What we want is action. The action is contained in Clause 2, because those who are to be responsible for the administration and the conduct of affairs are explicitly told what is expected of them.

So I repeat that although I think the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, were supreme and presented in his usual remarkable forensic manner, I believe that really he is flogging a dead horse, and the last thing I should like to see is the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, indulging in an escapade of that kind. I advise my noble friend on the Front Bench—perhaps he will not agree with me, but I cannot help that because I am quite satisfied that I am right—that we must concern ourselves with the national interest. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, rightly said, we are concerned about consumer aspects. There is no question about it. By the time it is referred to the Consumer Council, referred to the CBI, referred to the TUC—and these bodies will refer it to their affiliated organisations—there will be so much consultation that in point of fact nothing will be done that is of the slightest use to the industry at all. So I suggest that, although the noble Lord has ex pressed himself remarkably well, his conclusion should be rejected.

Viscount AMORY

The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, has said that he believes the obligations laid on the Board under Clause 2 provide a satisfactory answer to the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. I would ask the noble Lord whether, in the light of experience of nationalised boards to date, he really thinks that the obligations there provide a satisfactory answer to the very relevant questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. It seems very difficult to belive that they do.


I am bound to say this to my noble friend—I will call him my noble friend because we were colleagues in another place for quite a long time, although I arrived there accidentally before be was born—that If I were to embark on a dissertation on nationalisation and nationalised boards I would occupy your Lordships' time to too great an extent. I have got very many things to say on the subject, and perhaps I might be invited at some time to give a lecture on it, but not now.

4.12 p.m.


Had we thought there was a substantial consumer interest we should certainly have been happy to consult with a consumer organisation, and it almost certainly would have been the Consumer Council. But we are of the opinion that there is not a substantial consumer interest. Remember that the object of the whole Scheme is decasualisation of labour. That does not necessarily involve higher costs.


Would the noble Lord forgive me? Could he please indicate how many casual workers this Scheme will decasualise? Is not the figure something over 300?


I could not give a figure, because we do not yet know what work is going to be classified. We have no figures of that kind. I certainly have no figure of 300. The whole object of this Scheme, particularly since 1967, has been decasualisation of labour; that is its primary function. In fact it is very little else but decasualisation of labour. And decasualisation of labour does not necessarily increase costs. It has been my experience over the years that when you have part-time labour, to come at your request at the time you want it, you have to pay more for it per hour than you pay for full-time labour. So it does not necessarily mean that you would reduce costs.

There would, in the case of the dock industry, in our opinion, be some saving in costs, because of improved industrial relations. Remember the strikes of the early 1970s? They were all about the problems with which this Bill is dealing. Up to 1970 we had never had a comprehensive dock strike other than the General Strike. In 1970 and in 1972, for the first time we had comprehensive dock strikes, because of the problems with which this Bill is dealing. Then we had an unofficial strike in London immediately afterwards. After the strike the ACAS had an inquiry. The inquiry committee reported that the best thing that could be done to prevent a repetition was for the present Government to go forward as speedily as possible with their proposals for dock work regulation. We were recommended by the inquiry committee to go ahead with it. Therefore, there is an independent opinion, completely outside the Government, that this Bill will improve industrial relations in the docks. It will therefore reduce the losses that we get from strikes, and, therefore, in fact might be of benefit to consumers rather than a hindrance.

I would also point out that the Dock Labour Board is not concerned with negotiation of wages. Wages are negotiated in the National Joint Council. That is not the function of the Board at all. I further point out that although a good deal has been made of the cost of redundancy or severance pay in the industry, in general the cost of services by the employers for the employees in the dock industry is not high. As I said on Second Reading, the cost to the dock employer under the scheme for pensions, redundancy and all the other benefits for employees for which he pays, is 11 per cent., and of course the greater part of that is severance. The whole lot is 11 per cent. of wages. In the chemical industry, which I took as an example, it is 10.3 per cent., and for white collar workers in the chemical industry it is 15 per cent. So that we cannot say that the Scheme is going to inflict very high additional costs.

On the questions that were put specifically: if there are new employers brought within the Scheme, will they have to pay the levy? Yes, but that would mean that the levy is more than it has been. There will be more levy only if there is more severance; it is mostly for severance pay. The levy is at a different rate at the different ports; it varies between 4 and 5 per cent. according to the port. But the amount of the levy will not increase because of this Bill. The amount of the levy that has to be paid by the industry will increase if the costs increase, and the biggest cost is severance pay.

Viscount SIMON

Would the noble Lord allow me to put one question? Is he saying that although the new Board will be operating over a much wider field, its administrative expenses will be no larger than those of the present Board?


I certainly did not intend to say that. I think it is a good question. I would say, if it is operating over a larger field with, as will be the case, local Boards, there is bound to be some increase in administrative expenses. I would think that would be negligible. That is not a substantial consumer interest. Severance pay is a substantial consumer interest, and I answered the question with that in mind.

So far as the minimum wage is concerned, I think if a man is on call he should be paid his wage. The Dock Labour Scheme has not been necessarily wasteful. It has very largely meant that instead of a large number of people being employed part-time a smaller number are employed full-time. So far as the small ports are concerned, the small ports will be brought within the Scheme only if they are found to come within the criteria laid down in the Bill; for example, where there is casual labour and it is necessary for the purposes of the port to have a full-time staff. The criteria are quite clearly laid down in the Bill, and it follows from that that all the small ports will not be dragged in.

I have no knowledge of the £6 per ton. I certainly would not accept it. Having regard to what has happened with this kind of thing in the past, I would say it is a bit of propaganda. It is the kind of propaganda that goes on—it has gone on with the aircraft Bill—and it will go on with this Bill and any other Bill of the same kind.


May I intervene again to ask whether, if the noble Lord rejects that as propaganda, the Government have done their sums and what figure do they reach?


I am not aware of any figure, and I should imagine that no figure is available because the scheme has not been drafted; we do not know how far we are going with classification, with bringing in ports. It will be a long time before the questions can be answered. I do not think that any reliable estimate can be made at the moment. That is one reason why I suspect that this is propaganda.


Would not the noble Lord agree that it is rather irresponsible, in view of the debate which took place in another place yesterday and the general state of the country, for the Government to put forward a Bill which is going to cost money—and the noble Lord has not refuted that—when they have not bothered to make even an estimate of figures in order to see whether this money is going to be well spent? is not that something the Government should get on with and try to provide an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, at a later stage of the Bill when it is convenient?


As I said, I should imagine that any estimate put forward at the moment could not be considered to be very reliable because it has yet to be decided within the criteria of the Bill what work will, and what work will not, be classified. The additional cost, if any, will depend upon what additional work is classified. We have got a long way to go before we ever reach an answer to that question.


Would the noble Lord not agree that these sums ought to have been done? The noble Lord is a very experienced and very skilful businessman himself, and he will have had experience of many occasions on which some sort of estimates have to be made against just as doubtful a background as he is indicating in relation to this Bill, and one has to get on with it in a businesslike way in order to have some idea of where the money is going to be spent and where it has to be found from. I strongly suggest that it is only reasonable that these sums should be done, and that the Government Department should get to work and do them.


Estimates should be based upon facts, and in so far as they are not based on facts they are very rough estimates indeed. I would say that you could make estimates on assumptions which may not in due course be the facts, but that is the only way in which you could do it. Those figures may in fact be available so far as I know, and if they are available I should be very pleased to convey them to the noble Lord, but I should be extremely doubtful whether they are available. It is because of the difficulties there that I have had some suspicion of this. In conclusion, may I say that if we did think that there was a real and substantial consumer interest we would not have any doubt in accepting this Amendment, but we do not think there is a substantial consumer interest; nor do we think that the case that there is has been established.


Would the noble Lord not agree that, with 50 per cent. of our food coming in as imports into this country, and the handling and warehousing of it being of prime importance, we could not have a greater consumer interest?


May I add, in reply to what the noble Lord said, that in his previous speech on another Amendment with which he did not agree he said that everybody was a consumer. So if everybody is a consumer there must be a consumer interest. I find this just a little odd. It may well be that the National Consumer Council protects, or at any rate tries to protect, consumers who perhaps are not so argumentative as I and a few other people are; and many people who are really interested and knowledgeable about the Scheme would be able, through the trade unions and the CBI and all the rest of them, to have the consumer interest considered. But the National Consumer Council tries to look after people who find it extremely difficult to know where to go to have their interests protected. The noble Lord must not be annoyed if I say that I think that it is absolutely fantastic that, first of all he says everybody has a consumer interest, and then says that if he really thought there was a consumer interest he would be willing to accept the Amendment. It is just dotty.


I am not surprised. Of course we are all consumers—I think we all accept that—but whether or not there is a consumer interest in this particular case depends on two things: first, whether the operation of this new Scheme under the Bill will add substantially to the prices paid by consumers, and, secondly, whether it will affect supplies. I think those are the two questions. We must examine those two questions if we are going to decide whether there is a substantial consumer interest. We are of the opinion, as I have explained in some detail, that there will not he any perceptible increase in prices arising out of the operation of the new Dock Labour Scheme. I do not think there is any doubt about that. Any increase in prices will be negligible as a result of the operation of this scheme.

So far as shortages are concerned, might I point out that before any work can be classified, first it has to be third party handling—that is to say, if a firm is handling its own goods, or the goods of an associated company, then it does not come within this scheme at all. It has to be third party handling, and third party handling only. Secondly, it has to be within 5 miles of the high-water mark. It has to be within the five mile zone. Thirdly, the warehouse, or whatever, must be handling imports or exports. If it was handling only or substantially only home produced foods then it would not be involved. This Bill is concerned with the handling of imports and exports. Fourthly, a most elaborate two-stage procedure is set out in Schedule 4 before any work can be classified. It is a most elaborate two-stage procedure. In addition, there have to be consultations with the Minister of Agriculture. There are so many obstacles that in our opinion there is no likelihood whatever of the extension of the Dock Labour Scheme having any effect at all on food suppliers.

Viscount SIMON

Could not the noble Lord come a little closer to us over this? Nothing very much is involved. He has said that if he was satisfied that there was a large consumer interest he would readily agree. All the Amendment is asking is that the Consumer Council shall be consulted before an appointment is made. As his noble friend Lord Shinwell says, it is not as though they have to be consulted about every decision of the Board; it is only about an appointment to the Board. Once that has been done somebody is appointed, and until he dies, or something like that, and a successor has to be appointed, there is nothing more to be done. This is such a small thing and there is a feeling, I am sure through the country, that they would feel very much happier if there was this consultation. It amounts to so little. Could not the noble Lord meet us on this point?


I am prepared to consult with my right honourable friend and see whether it is possible for further consideration to be given to it. It is not new. It is not being raised for the first time. I am quite prepared to find out whether there is some way in which we can meet the point of view which has been put forward, but without any commitment.


I wonder whether my noble friend would do that because there is a very relevant point here. I know my noble friend's interest in the consumer and the Cooperative movement, and that is not in doubt—it goes back a long time—but those of us who take a great interest in the consumer movement at the present time hope that at last we are moving into a new sphere. For a long time when we wanted to get a consumer body recognised we were told, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, said, that we were all consumers. That is not really the point. I do not feel that we shall make a great deal of progress in the best ways of the consumer movement until the movement itself is accepted, whether or not one considers it to be one of the powers or estates in the land, and I should have thought that if the TUC and the CBI were consulted they would agree that it was eminently reasonable to say (I appreciate that the Amendment refers to the National Consumer Council) that such a body should be consulted, too.

I take it from what the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said, that it would not mean that the Consumer Council would have the right to have somebody on the committee; it is a question of consultation. Until we break this barrier we shall not get far. On "Neddy" we—if I may use the word "we" in this context—have at last managed to get the chairman of the National Consumer Council sitting in there, and that is at least a step forward. I hope that my noble friend will be able to look at the matter purely from that point of view, because I am sure that the Government believe in the best type of progress for the consumer, and I should hate to be disappointed. I hope that my noble friend will do as he has suggested and look at the matter again.


My problem is that I believe that there is no substantial consumer interest involved. However, I very much agree with the principle expounded by my noble friend that if one can do anything to further that principle one should try to do it. Largely for that reason I have said that I will take the matter back, and I will write to the noble Lord in good time to enable him, if he is dissatisfied, to table an Amendment on Report.


We seem to be embarking on a state of ever-increasing bewilderment, because when the Bill was first drafted it was widely trumpeted in dockland as being a measure to provide new job opportunities for existing registered dockers. That was its purpose. As a result of protests, which are fully understood, from other unions, safeguards have been written into the Bill. It was conceded after long argument in Committee in another place and then on Second Reading here that the Bill did not provide any new jobs at all for registered dockers in the immediate future, although it might provide a handful in the years to come, but nothing like sufficient to cope with the existing surplus of labour in the docks. We have therefore had a different justification for the Bill put forward; namely, that it is to deal with the decasualisation of labour. It is the first time I have heard that put forward, as the prime object of the Bill. What casual labour is being decasualised we shall have to discover as our Committee proceedings proceed. As I understand it, the only casual labour that might be affected by the Bill is the existing casual labour in the small non-scheme ports, where I think the figure for the whole country is 327; it might be 357, and I would not go to the stake on either figure. That the Bill is seriously being introduced to provide all this elaborate machinery to deal with 357 people who are contentedly doing a part-time job in the small non-scheme ports flabbergasts me.

However, that hardly arises out of this limited and modest Amendment, which was intended as a token one to draw attention to the consumer interest. The area has been widened by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, asking whether there was a substantial consumer interest involved in the Bill. Eventually the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry—and I am grateful for her assistance in this matter—clearly had rather more effect on the Minister than any noble Lords who spoke from this side of the Committee. Lord Jacques said that he would undertake to look at the matter again and notify us before the next stage of the Bill. We are grateful to him for that and it would be ungracious, at any rate at this time, not to seek leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [General duty of the Board]:

4.37 p.m.

Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 11, after ("Board") insert (", having regard to the public interest,").

The noble Lord said: This is concerned broadly with the same subject as the last Amendment. We have indeed been encouraged by the response of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, to that Amendment and we feel that much of what he said is relevant to this one. Lord Jacques admitted that we were all consumers. There were differences of opinion on how far the consumer interest was affected by the Bill and those opinions will be stronger on one side of the Committee than on the other. The intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, was welcome. We are pleased to see that not only is there support for this concept in the Committee but that it is spreading, and we hope that this concept of the consumer interest, and indeed the public interest, can be spread a little more widely.

I referred to this matter when we discussed the first three Amendments; I spoke of how the Bill would expand the spheres of activity covered by the Dock Labour Scheme and by everything we know as dock work, and I explained how it would increasingly affect industry and consumers. All of us are consumers. It will affect all of us as consumers of food and imports; it will affect those of us who are workers and are involved in the export trade; it will involve so many of us that it will concern the vast majority of people. We believe that the Bill will be particularly relevant to port services and people working therein and in warehouses, and of course the Bill will affect the cold storage industry.

We have heard from Lord Jacques that he will endeavour to see how the interests of the consumer can be incorporated in the Bill. We believe that the Board should be required to give further and due consideration to the public interest in addition to the more limited interests which might be affected by the provisions of the Bill. This is not a completely radical concept and, having been encouraged by what Lord Jacques said on the last Amendment, we look forward with interest to hearing what the Government have to say about the slightly wider concept raised by this Amendment; namely, not merely the interests of consumers, because we believe that the public interest could involve other interests as well.


I suggest to the Committee that it would not be appropriate to adopt the Amendment. I make that suggestion because the Board which is to be set up under the Bill will be a responsible body. Noble Lords were perhaps disappointed in not getting the Board's constitution changed in accordance with earlier Amendments. Nevertheless, I think they will concede that, as provided by the Bill, it will be an entirely responsible body and that there is no reason to assume that if this Amendment is not accepted, then when the Board undertakes reviews under the clause it will make suggestions or put forward proposals which could be considered contrary to or not taking account of the public interest. As a responsible body they would recognise that the public interest was the major interest for them to serve.

Although the noble Lord did not, I think, quite make this point, an idea which no doubt underlies this Amendment is that, in considering whether to make proposals under the later subsections of this clause, the Board should be required to take due account of a broader public interest if this appeared to conflict with the particular interests of dock workers and dock employers. Such a conflicting public interest would, however, be something incapable, I suggest, of precise definition. We were talking just now about the consumer interest, and over many years I have taken some interest in the expression "the defence of the consumer interest". That in itself, I think we should all concede, is difficult enough to define, but a precise definition of "the public interest", as the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, said, is wider than that issue which we were considering just now, and is even more difficult of precise definition. What I think is far more important is that under subsection (5) of the clause the Board is required to maintain regular consultations with a very wide variety of bodies and interests which are concerned with dock work so that it can listen to what they have to say and take account of their views.

I would suggest one further point to your Lordships. Clause 2 places on the Board only a broad general requirement to keep the overall situation under review, and, if and when they think it appropriate, to make proposals to the Secretary of State. This clause does not give the Board specific powers. The Secretary of State would himself want to consider any proposals made in the light of all the relevant factors, which would include the public interest, and if he thought, on balance, that any particular proposal was contrary to the public interest I think it is clear, since he is responsible to Parliamentary scrutiny, that he would obviously not act upon such a proposal. For these reasons, I am afraid that, on behalf of the Government, I am not in a position to accept the Amendment.

Viscount SIMON

I should like, from these Benches, to support this Amendment, and I am very disappointed with the reply which has been given by the noble Lord. It does not seem to me really consistent with the attitude which the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, was taking on the earlier Amendments, when we were pressing for wider representation on the Board. He then said that it was inappropriate because the Board was dealing only with very narrow matters. It is just because the Board is dealing with very narrow matters that I should have thought it was desirable that, in the Statute, their attention should be called—it may not amount to very much, but that their attention should be called—to the need to have regard to the public interest.

The noble Lord referred to subsection (5), which asks them to maintain regular consultation with the National Ports Council and, "others appearing to the Board to be concerned". The National Ports Council is of course concerned through its association with the ports, and I should have read that clause to mean other, similar bodies which are concerned in that sort of field, and not the broad bodies which are concerned with the public interest. So, for myself, I feel it is a great pity that the Government are not prepared to put in these, if I may say so, rather harmless words, but words which will continuously remind the Board that it must look at a wider horizon than just the ports and warehouses with which it is directly concerned.


I doubt whether there is anybody in your Lordships' Committee who could specifically define what is meant by "the public interest". To take a few examples, if we asked the Liberal Party how they would define it they would say, "Let us have electoral reform; that is in the public interest". If we asked the Conservative Party what was their definition of "the public interest", they would say, "Get rid of the Labour Government as soon as possible". The public interest is quite incapable of definition specifically. Almost every one of us has used the term. I have used it myself on innumerable occasions, particularly on the election platform, at the hustings; but, quite frankly, I was not quite sure what I was talking about. The public interest varies so much, and there are so many ramifications, there are so many possible interpretations of the public interest, that, quite frankly, to insert it into a Bill would be to insert a cliché, and, heaven knows!, we have far too many clichés without embodying this one in legislation.

This reminds me of the debate we had a little while ago about consumer interests. The same applies to consumer interests. When my noble friend Lady Burton made one of her innumerable, eloquent speeches on the subject of consumer interests, it occurred to me that for many years she has been concerned about consumer interests in connection with aircraft and travelling by air, but in point of fact she has been more effective when she has been presenting the case personally than any consumer council associated with that subject could be. Almost every Member of your Lordships' House can be an advocate of some particular consumer interest or some particular public interest. Of course we can. What is the point of inserting a cliché of this kind? It is of no value whatever; and I must confess—


If the noble Lord will forgive me, I was going to ask him, before he sits down, whether he agrees that it would be very much easier for us to define "the public interest" if only we could find out what the purpose of the Bill was.


That does not at all vitiate anything that I have said about the matter. It is a very interesting point, but I never bother about interruptions, anyhow, particularly when I am not capable of replying to them effectively. The fact of the matter is that we are making a bit of a farce of this business. Here is a situation—and let us face it, because I do not want to bother much more about it—where something new is being imposed on our industrial organisation. In point of fact, if I may say so—and perhaps I have as much knowledge of the docks as anybody in your Lordships' Committee because I was for a long time associated with the docks when I was connected with the seafarers, and I know every dock in the country; there is not a dock I have not visited at some time or other, not altogether to my advantage—it has nothing to do with decasualisation, either. The subject of decasualisation has already been dealt with. This is something quite different.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide dockers who perhaps may be unemployed but who are at the same time receiving all the remuneration, to which they are not entitled—I do not want to get into trouble because of what I have just said—with an opportunity to engage in work about five miles away from the actual scene of operations. If I may say so, it is a cock-eyed piece of legislation; but, of course, sometimes such legislation has to be introduced for one reason or another—sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes because we want to placate a particular organisation or a group of organisations. There are all sorts of reasons for proposing legislation, although whether it is passed is another matter. No, no! Let us not make a fuss of this "in the public interest". I am quite satisfied that nobody could specify meticulously, without offering a whole series of interpretations and assumptions and all the rest, this matter of public interest. I suggest that we forget about it and get on with the Bill.


Although I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, generally that clichés are not desirable and "public interest" is hard to define, in this particular case it is not so. There is a public interest with regard to the docks where there is not in many other cases. That is because every day of every year, half the country's food supplies come through the docks. If the activities of the docks are impeded for any reason over a period of a couple of days some people will starve. It is as blunt as that. I think there is a public interest in this regard which is very special to the docks. There would not be public interest in many other respects as, for instance, a general impeding of all the bus companies or even the railways, but the docks are unique and public interest is paramount.

There are two points which stem from that. The noble Lord, Lord Oram, said that we have a responsible Board appointed here—and he did not say, but might have said, that it might have been more responsible if my noble friend's Amendment had been taken earlier. But it is a responsible Board; therefore why do we want to qualify this instructionary paragraph? My answer is that, if the Board is a responsible Board—and I applaud the idea of Government expecting responsibility on the part of subordinated bodies (and we have been talking about that in relation to another Bill)—what is the need to have this paragraph to tell it what to do? The Government think it necessary to guide it. They guide it—and if noble Lords will bear with me and look at the Bill they will find various unqualified subjective statements—with such phrases as that in line 16, subsection 2(a): classifications are satisfactory". Satisfactory in what way? And in the following line: could with advantage". With advantage to whom? Going on to line 25: dock workers are adequately deployed". What is "adequately"?

There is no overriding guiding phrase to show the Board what is to be at the background of its thinking when it uses these subjective phrases in making its decisions and recommendations. I suggest that this particular phrase of "having regard to the public interest" is a very useful background guidance to a Board which will essentially in the main consist of people actually working there. This will be guidance that they can be conscious of when they arrive at the decisions. It will enable them to provide background definitions to these subjective phrases that I have mentioned. I suggest therefore to my noble friend that this is certainly an Amendment which is worth pressing "in the public interest".

4.55 p.m.

The Earl of GOWRIE

This is one of the occasions when those on the Front Benches simply act in some way as referees or spectators of duels on the Back Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, sent up a lob and my noble friend (before I was able to do so and more effectively) smashed it right home. Obviously, in any trading economy like Britain's, the docks are a vital sector of the public interest not merely on food, although that is the most important as the staff of life, but also on every kind of economic activity. I am prepared to accept, as was I think my noble friend Lord Mottistone, some literary criticism from the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, when he castigated us for setting down a cliché, particularly as his literary criticism went on to describe the entire Bill as a cockeyed and placatory piece of legislation. By placatory legislation, I think he meant a piece of legislation which was there to cater for or placate one special interest. That we much agree with.

I do not agree with him, as my noble friend does not agree with him, that you cannot define "public interest" by an appeal to common sense. You have an appeal to common sense as to the public interest where docks are concerned regarding food and consumer interests. But we are apt sometimes to assume that public interest and consumer interests are absolutely identical. There are other interests involved publicly here. I am concerned, as one interested in the port users' associations, as to the interests of those who use ports, those whose livelihood and commercial activities—and thereby indirectly the commercial activities of the country as a whole—depend on good relations and a secure situation vis-à-vis the ports. We are worried all through this Bill, a piece of legislation whose motives we disapprove of but which we can understand—and in my wider debate on the need for public inquiry a little later I hope to go into this—that a special arrangement has been made between the Government and some principals involved which might (to put it mildy) have not as one of its foremost concerns the public interest.

Since this Part of the Bill is not concerned with the Dock Scheme but with the setting up of the Board, we want the Board set up with reference to these wider interests. I must apologise to your Lordships because, since there is so much legislation, I had to attend a brief meeting on another Bill during the last debate; but I understand from my noble friend, Lord Lyell, that the Government were more co-operative there. I appeal to the Government to accept that, while it may be that this is inelegantly phrased and something of a cliché we need something of the kind and I hope that they will look at this again.


We have had a very interesting number of points brought forward, but I must say that nothing that has been advanced diverts me from the original suggestion I made that the phrase "public interest" is too imprecise to justify writing it into the Bill. My noble friend Lord Shinwell made a speech which was most helpful in parts but there were other parts about which I had some doubts. But on this particular point I welcomed what he had to say. He followed the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, who used one or two phrases which I thought in fact backed up—although he did not intend this—the points that I was making. He said that all that was wanted was just to call the attention of the Board to the public interest, and that they were harmless phrases. I suggest that we want to avoid writing into legislation phrases simply because they are harmless. A phrase in an Amendment must have some purpose and not be merely harmless. It is because this phrase seems to me to be unnecessary, as well as too imprecise, that I feel I must resist the suggestion that it be accepted.

The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, was rather stronger in thinking that it was an important phrase, not a harmless one. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, backed up the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who thought that it was something of greater significance than seemed to he suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, then went on to say that it is possible to exercise common sense in weighing up what we mean by public interest. Of course it is. Of course the Board, when it is appointed, will reach judgment on what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, called subjective phrases. The Board will comprise people capable of exercising judgment on these phrases. That is why they will be appointed; that is their purpose, and they will know that. They will know, without the Bill having to tell them, that one of their main purposes in serving on the Board is to serve the public interest. I am not denying that there is not a public interest involved in this Bill; of course there is. The point is that it is quite unnecessary to insert it into the Bill.


Would the noble Lord not agree that, in the nature of things, in any Board of this kind—and he must have had much experience in this field, as I have—the different bodies within the Board have different interests? All these Boards are constituted of so many people taken from one source and so many from another source, and they all have different interests. Is it not wise to try to harness those interests in some way or other—and the words here are not ideal—so that their diverse interests are reminded within the Bill? It is all very well to say, as the noble Lord did, that the Bill is in the public interest and that is part of its purpose; but it does not say so anywhere. Would it not be a good plan if it did, because of the fact that the Board members will all have diverse interests?


I have had a short experience on one public board. There there were no interests in that sense. I accept that in this particular case some of the members come forward because they have special interests; others are there in an independent capacity. It is my experience in committee work, even though you have representatives of special interests, given an independent chairman and given a building up of the right spirit in their discussions, a board which is properly constituted of representatives of special interests can take a general view, can take the public interest into account. In this instance, given the nature of Clause 2 in general, I do not think that there will be any dubiety at all that they will act in that way.

Before the noble Lord rose, I was going to refer to one remaining point which the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, made. He was on to this special interest. He said that the Bill was very much designed to serve special interests. I do not deny—indeed, it is clear as I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone—that the special interests of dock workers and employers are of course involved. As was explained at Second Reading and spelt out again by my noble friend Lord Jacques in connection with the discussion we had on the consumer interests, right through the Bill there are safeguards, so that through the exercise of those safeguards it will not be possible for the special interests—though I admit that they are there—to exercise powers to the detriment of the public at large. Therefore it is not that I am against the general tone of the debate of this issue, but I rest on the fact that these words are unnecessary and imprecise. It would be unwise to put in words simply with as little justification as that put forward. That is why I suggest that we pass on without accepting this Amendment.

5.8 p.m.


I came into the Committee late and apologise for that. Inevitably, I have missed much of the debate. I hope your Lordships will nevertheless forgive me, because I came to the Committee specially because of the intention, as I understood it, of the Government to resist these words. These words are not imprecise. These words are not unnecessary. I joined the other place in 1945 when my noble friend Lord Shinwell produced the first of the great nationalisation Bills, the details about which all of us have had second thoughts since. We always thought that it was important to make it clear that we were not introducing a syndicalist idea—which old Socialists like my noble friend and I will understand—but we were trying to move ownership from sectional interests to the people. The public interest means just exactly that.

The way that this Bill has been conceived and has had birth is, let us all be clear, to satisfy one particular sectional interest. It happens to be a sectional interest to which I personally belong. I have a fully paid-up card in my pocket to show that I do. But it makes it a non-necessarily public interest. The interests of this particular sectional interest might well be contrary to those of the general public. My noble friend who spent so long in the Co-operative movement, knows as well as I do the difference between sectional and general public interests. Unless it is said that is what you are after, nobody could ever challenge in a court of law or anywhere else whatever they do.

It puzzles me that a Co-operative and Labour Peer, with as long a background in the movement as my noble friend has, could read out such a brief with all the evidence of believing it. We would never take it from the Conservatives if they were to do it. We would never take it from the shipowners if they were to do it. Why do we take it just because one specific special interest on our side is saying it? There are trade union members of this House who are not here today who are as unhappy with it as I am, and I make no bones about it to the noble Lord. I want a situation to exist where, at the end of the day, what is done by the authority could be challenged on the basis that clearly it was against the public interest—that is, the consumers, the users and all the rest of us—although it might well have been in the interests of the specific special interest.

I repeat, no nationalisation Bill was ever put through between 1945 when I entered the House, and 1970 when I was ejected, withoug the saving words, "it must be in the public interest". If the noble Lord persists in that, then I hope that other noble Lords in this House will join with me, a Socialist, in saying I am not a syndicalist. I am not a trade union hack. I believe many things are better done publicly owned than privately owned, but I want it to be shown that they are done in the interests of the public, all of us, the rest of us, and not just in the interests of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

I apologise again for coming late but I simply wanted to put this view as strongly as I could, as a Socialist, as a trade unionist. It would be terrible if we started to write legislation like they did in the Duma in Russia, like the Soviets do, where it is not the peasant or the worker or the consumer who matters, it is the few who decide it is in their interests. I say to my noble friend, "Do at least persuade your colleagues to think about it again. If you do not say that, please let us carry the Amendment".

5.13 p.m.


I will not keep the Committee for more than a few moments. I did not intend to speak either, but I did intend to vote, and if I had not intended to vote when I came, then the Minister would have convinced me, I having listened to him, that I should vote against the Government, because he used some quite remarkable words. He talked about imprecision and harmless words. I share the view of the noble Lord who has just spoken. I, too, came into the House of Commons in 1945 and I, too, am a Socialist, without prefix or suffix. By that I mean that the public good must always prevail. In a democratic society industries or boards must be answerable to a Minister who in turn is answerable to Parliament in precise terms. The words that are here are as imprecise as anything could be. "There shall be reports from time to time." What does the Minister do when he gets the reports from time to time? Put them in the waste-paper basket? He has not even got to come back to the House, whereas the noble Lord, Lord George Brown, made the point that from 1945 onwards the keynote of the nationalisation measures was that boards were answerable to a Minister of Parliament.

As it happens, I have had practical experience over a considerable number of years of a Bill in which Parliament laid it down in the most precise terms that activities that were carried on had to be approved. Section 25 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act says that activities and schemes must be approved by the Secretary of State. Until I became Chairman of the Levy Board that section was ignored in toto because on the Board were the Jockey Club representatives and they conceived that that legislation on the Statute Book had been enacted so that the Levy Board would collect the money and the Jockey Club would spend it. From September, 1961, until November, 1967, therefore, that provision was completely and utterly ignored. None of the reports were ever debated though they were tabled in both Houses. That meant that every act of the Levy Board over that period of six years could have been challenged in the courts, but they were not. The Minister had no positive duty to look to see whether the provision was being carried out. It was not being carried out and it took three years of very hard work to prepare a Statutory Instrument. That Statutory Instrument was not signed until May, 1970, when the present Prime Minister was Home Secretary.

That is what happens when there is a measure laying down the requirement that the approval of a Minister is necessary, the Board do nothing about it, and there is nobody there to make them. Whereas with this provision about "from time to time" they may or may not tell a Minister and when the Minister is told he can please himself whether he sticks the report behind his clock, puts it in the wastepaper basket, or sends it back and refuses to take delivery. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, that this is a very dangerous provision indeed, and I hope that the Minister will go back to his right honourable friends and remind them of their past, remind them, as the noble Lord says, of the measures which were enacted from 1945 onwards, and ensure that whatever the Board is—whether it is the Jockey Club, whether it is plebeian in its background or aristocratic—it must be answerable to Parliament through a Minister. I do not know whether this Amendment will be put to a Division or not but I hope it is, and if it is my vote will he cast with that of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown.


I want to say only one sentence. I think the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has made a very remarkable and significant speech this afternoon. I agree with every word of it. I do not know whether it will make any difference, but I should just like to say that I cannot add to his arguments but I support them in full.


I confess that until I heard the recent speeches I was disposed to hold my own fire—what your Lordships would wish to do is in your Lordships' hands, not mine—until we returned to some of the themes raised by this particular debate in my appeal later on for a public inquiry. But it seems to me that one of the purposes of a Committee stage is that one should not just nail to the mast the flag of one's particular Amendment but listen carefully to what everyone has to say. We have had three or four really remarkable interventions and my own advice to the Committee—if your Lordships would be kind enough to heed it—would be that we should ask the Minister whether he feels he could not strengthen my phrase "the public interest" to let it meet some of the strong feelings which have been so eloquently expressed here today. My feeling is that if he cannot give us this undertaking we should divide on the issue.


As the noble Lord has said, since I spoke last we have had some very remarkable and powerful interventions. I found it a little ironic, as perhaps he did too, that my noble friend Lord George-Brown, who came into the Socialist movement through the trade union movement and indeed the trade union which is very much involved with this Bill, is today speaking so powerfully in support of the general public interest, whereas I, who came into the Socialist movement through the Co-operative movement, so conscious of its consumer base in this country and of the general relationship between consumer representation and public interest, should be taking a somewhat different view on this question.

I have listened to what has been said and recall that even when the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, introduced the Amendment he linked it with the previous debate on consumer representation, pointing out that there were some similarities on these issues. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, also pointed to the connection between the consumer interest, more specifically, and the general public interest. During the second part of the debate I was very conscious of the fact that my noble friend Lord Jacques had undertaken to have another look at the consumer interest aspect of this matter. Therefore, I should like to suggest to your Lordships that, in conjunction with the reconsideration of the consumer interest, we might have the opportunity also to look again at the public interest. That does not mean that I retract anything I said about the imprecise nature of this proposal, despite what was said by my noble friend Lord Wigg. It is not a phrase which is easily defined. Nevertheless, I recognise the connection between the consumer interest and the public interest, and I think it would be a little illogical for us to agree to take back the one and not the other. Therefore, if it is agreeable to your Lordships, I will give such an undertaking and hope that noble Lords opposite, on that basis, will not press their Amendment.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.24 p.m.

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 28, leave out ("disposition") and insert ("deployment").

The noble Lord said: At first sight, this Amendment seems to be only a "verbal" Amendment, but is is rather more than that. My object in moving it is, first of all, to clarify the meaning of the word "disposition" and also to clarify the intention and effect of the subsection in the context of which this word appears. We are dealing here with another matter which the Board has to keep under review, which is: the need (if any) to adjust the strength and disposition of the labour force:".

My Amendment would substitute the word "deployment" for "disposition". I could understand the need to adjust the strength of the labour force if I knew what the Government meant by that term. Do they mean the registered dock workers, or do they mean something else? If they mean something else, what is it that is meant? What do the words "disposition of the labour force" mean? What are the Board being asked to review? If the phrase means where the labour force is located and how it is distributed throughout the country, would not "deployment" or even "distribution" be better words? After all, "deployment" is used in the previous paragraph, so I feel entitled to ask what difference is intended between "deployment" and "distribution". If there is a difference, may we know what it is? If there is no difference, why confuse the issue by using a different word?

The third point is this: The Board are required to submit reports from time to time to the Secretary of State, together with proposals for action. If the strength of the labour force in one Dock Labour Scheme area is more than is needed, while the strength of the labour force in another Dock Labour Scheme area is less than is needed, is it envisaged that the Board would propose the transfer of registered dock workers from one area to the other? In other words, do the Government see the dock labour force as mobile, in much the same way as units of Her Majesty's Forces are mobile?

When I looked at this paragraph I was very much reminded of military parlance and history, because there is a distinctly military, if not Marxist, flavour about it. I am not thinking at the moment so much of mobility within the Dock Labour Scheme area. It is possible, though costly in terms of travelling time, to move dockers from one port to another or from one establishment to another within an area, without uprooting them from their homes. But very different considerations arise when it is a question of moving dockers from one area to another, such as the willingness of the dockers to move, the arrangements to assist them to move, what happens if they decline to move and how that would affect any redundancy rights and payments.

It would help the Committee very much in their consideration of the Bill if we could have an explanation of what is in the Government's mind so far as the phrase "disposition of the labour force" is concerned. I am assuming that "disposition" is used in the sense of deployment and not in its more common meaning of "temperament, attitude, morale". It may be that the Government intend to cover both meanings, and that the Board should report on the morale and attitude of the labour force as well as on its location. There might indeed be some good in that, too. If my assumption is wrong, would the Government make it clear that by "disposition" they mean "deployment" and not "temperament, attitude and morale"? If the latter is what they mean, would it not be better to use a word which does not have two meanings or, in other words, to use the word "deployment"?

To sum up, are the words "labour force" intended to cover registered dock workers, including perhaps the extension register, or do they have a wider meaning? Secondly, is it envisaged that the Board could make proposals for moving dock workers from a Dock Labour Scheme area where there are more dockworkers than are needed, to another area where there is a deficiency? Thirdly, what is the word "disposition" intended to mean?


I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has explained that his Amendment goes rather wider than mere semantics regarding the meaning of these two words. While contemplating the Amendment, I had thought that there was not much difference between the two words. Indeed, towards the end of his speech the noble Lord returned to the point that in dictionary terms there is not much difference between the word "disposition" which is included in the Bill and the word "deployment" which he seeks to insert.

The noble Lord raised two points of substance in connection with his Amendment. My answer to him with regard to the meaning of "labour force" is that it is that group of employees which would he engaged on work which is classified under the provisions of the Bill as dock work. The Board would be able to make proposals regarding the disposition or deployment—I personally believe that there is no great difference between the two words—of that labour force from one part of the country to another. That is not to say that those proposals would involve the dragooning of any groups of workers from one place to another. Included in those proposals would be the methods whereby the Board would suggest to the Secretary of State that any imbalance could be properly overcome. It would be well within the competence of the Board to examine the disposition of the labour force and to make proposals for the rectification of anything that was wrong.

If I may return to the actual use of one word or the other. if one consults all the dictionaries I do not think that there will be found to be much difference—indeed, scarcely any difference—between the meaning of the two words, but if there is any difference then I think that the balance is in favour of the word which is included in the Bill; namely, "disposition". The word "disposition" implies the current situation and it is the current situation which might need to be adjusted, whereas "deployment"—I do not make much of this—carries with it the connotation that movement of some kind has taken place. What is intended by the wording is the examination of the current situation. Therefore I return to the point that although I welcome the noble Lord's inquiries on the points that I regard as of greater substance, there is no great difference between the two words and that, in so far as there is any difference, there is virtue in retaining the word which is already printed in the Bill.


Obviously I do not want to press this Amendment to a Division and I am grateful to the noble Lord for the explanation that he has given. It was particularly interesting to hear that the Government envisage the possibility that the National Dock Labour Board may make proposals for the transfer of dock workers from one Dock Labour Scheme area to another. This will no doubt influence our thinking, although I am not certain that there will be any occasion upon which to pursue the matter very much further until we receive the new Dock Labour Scheme.

Having said that, I am not going to press this word. However, I thought that it was worth making the point that there is some possibility of the word being misunderstood and possibly even misused, and that perhaps it would have been more natural to use "deployment" instead of a rather recherché word like "disposition".

Viscount SIMON

Before the noble Lord withdraws his Amendment, may I make one suggestion to the noble Lord the Minister. If the skills, aptitudes and experience of dock workers can be deployed, they can be deployed only if the dock workers themselves are deployed because they cannot be deployed in any other way. It seems to me that it would be worth while for the Government to look at the question of whether or not "deployment" is a better word to use, because it picks up the word from the previous paragraph. Either or both of those words may involve movement or not movement.


I take the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. It is indeed a point which I made and it seems to me that for that reason alone one should stick to the word "deployment". However, I do not feel inclined to press the Amendment to a Division. I am confident that the noble Lord will take a look at the matter because I know that all that we say is looked at again before the next stage. I am not asking the noble Lord to make any commitment whatsoever about it but merely to bear it in mind. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Secretary of State to prepare new Scheme]:

5.8 p.m.

The Earl of GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 4, line 3, at end insert— ("() if before the expiration of the sixty days referred to in paragraph (b) above an objection is received by him from any person appearing to him to be affected by the draft Scheme, and is not withdrawn, proceed in accordance with the provisions of Schedule (Public Inquiries) to this Act; and ")

The noble Earl said: We come now to what will, I imagine, turn out to be the first of three major debates on Clause 4 which, from the point of view of those of us who sit on this side of the House, is certainly the most contentious part of a generally rather contentious Bill. Some of the remarks that I shall make during the next few minutes on the first of my set of Amendments—and I will give the numbers to your Lordships in a moment—may have been covered to some degree in the references during the debate so far to the public interest, to consumer interest and the like. However, I do not want the Committee to think that that is the particular tack which I am after. I feel that these interests will be best served by the procedure of a public inquiry into the very radical extension of dock rights and Dock Labour Schemes which we have at present, particularly because the method of public inquiry is with us at the moment in the existing scheme.

In these opening remarks I propose to address myself not only to Amendment No. 9 which has been called, but also to Amendments Nos. 32 and 66 and to the new Schedule which stands in my name and those of my colleagues and which appears after Schedule 4. As I think will be apparent from what has been said so far on this side of the Committee, we have strong reservations about the proposed composition of the National Dock Labour Board, although we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, for appreciating at least some of these reservations and for his undertaking that he will look at them again. But now we come to our reservations about a different part of the Bill altogether which has nothing to do directly with the Board, although the Board will administer it. This is the Dock Labour Scheme which the Secretary of State is enabled by the huge powers that he is given under the Bill to bring about.

Not only does the Bill still give enormous power to the National Dock Labour Board and to the way that it is constituted but, as I have just said, it goes against existing legislation by which there is at least the right to a public inquiry before changes are made to the scope of the scheme. That right to public inquiry is now to he done away with and those of your Lordships who have been concerned with the public interest, whether loosely or tightly defined, in my contention shoud show yourselves very reluctant that it should be done away with in this manner. I think you should be reluctant to do away with it, particularly when we are all agreed, in all parts of the House, that this is a very massive change; a massive extension of any previous Dock Labour Scheme. We shall discover just how massive when we come to the next in this series of debates, which is the debate on the five-mile limit or the zone.

I think the Committee would follow me in saying that a change of this nature in the legislative content and in the legislative procedure needs a justification of a heavy kind from the Government. If we were in this Committee tonight applying the Private Bill procedure, as opposed to the Public Bill procedure, I need hardly remind your Lordships that the situation would, of course, be different. Under the Private Bill procedure, evidence and objections could be heard by those sitting on an appropriate Committee, but this opportunity is not open under the procedure proposed in the Bill, and that means that we must consider it at some length and in considerable detail in the Committee here this evening.

Whatever the merits may be or, to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, earlier, whatever the political exigencies may be about this massive extension of the dockers' corridor over a large part of the United Kingdom which is not at present generally associated with docklands, I do not think anyone can dispute that the new area over which dockers will have jurisdiction, de jure, if not, as the Secretary of State insists, always de facto, should not cause a great deal of concern to the enormous amount of differing interests, companies', consumers' and the whole gamut. It seems to me that it is wrong that this new Dock Labour Scheme—which, after all, the Bill only enables the Secretary of State to set up; we do not have the Scheme before us—should, when it appears, go through Parliament merely on Affirmative Resolution. I contend that the public inquiry route, which is the route that presently is available for extension of dock labour schemes, should obtain here as well.

Even if there are those of us, notably perhaps on the other side of the House, who may approve the political principles underlying the new Scheme, or what we imagine will underlie the new Scheme, we acknowledge, I think, that the effects are great and manifold on the different bodies and interests in the entire country. Having said that, I am sensible that Committee stage is not the place for Second Reading speeches, but in a Bill which contains, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, told us and as I think the speech of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, reinforced, a great deal of political content—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Oram, also acknowledged that earlier—it will be difficult I think, for me not to make some reference to some of the political motivation behind the Bill, and I want to do so particularly because I am not altogether out of sympathy with some of the motives behind an extension of the Dock Labour Scheme.

My objections are, of course, to this particular extension, and I am asking your Lordships' Committee to take it on trust for the moment that my objection and the objections of my colleagues during the three major debates are not doctrinaire and are not on principle. All of us with any knowledge or experience of labour relations or employment matters have considerable sympathy with any group of people, wherever they should be, who have found their livelihoods changed by technological innovation. We differ, many of us, on what kind of solutions to provide, how we should respond to these changes, and I think at Second Reading—and unfortunately I was abroad and could not attend, but I have read the Report—the noble Lords on the Liberal Benches very forcefully made the point that in their view, as indeed in ours, the response to those technical and technological changes should be in the form of compensation, as presently exists, and also in retraining facilities and the like.

But we are in agreement that the recent history of the ports has seen a considerable reduction in the registered dock force—a reduction, I understand, of over 30,000 men over the Scheme as a whole in the last five years. That is obviously something of a social upheaval to those who work in the docks and we must be sympathetic and responsive to such an upheaval. I do not think anybody would make out that dockers, any more than miners, or Tories, or even noble Lords, were angels on occasion, but we do acknowledge that there are elements in their past history which justify sometimes their somewhat extreme and strong views. We know from individual psychology, from our personal lives, that insecurity can make us aggressive, and the past history of casual labour is a wound, I should have thought, in the docking cycle, and the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, acknowledged that. But the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, also pointed out that this quarrel or this wound, was to some degree over; that we have had schemes from 1946 and again in 1967 which have tackled the casual labour problem and the present Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, acknowledged, is really a rather different thing altogether.

I want the Committee to recognise, if they will be so kind, that I follow my noble friend, Lord Aldington, and others in recognising the reality of the problem. Where I differ from noble Lords opposite, the Government, on this Bill, is in how the problem should be tackled. Against the reduction in job opportunities, and particularly industrial job opportunities which I mentioned earlier, it is not easy to see how, by merely trying to redefine dock work, as the Bill does, one can solve the problem of surplus dockers or how one can solve the problems which have hit those rather close, tightly-knit, if not politically motivated, dockland communities which dockers take pride in and which give their profession, their work, its special character.

Where we do not agree is that by taking over jobs which are at present not in the dockers' bailiwick we are really in the long term going to serve their interests; and in the short term, particularly in these days, we are certainly not going to serve the public or the national interest. There are those who believe that the preservation of traditional dock labour and of the craftsmanship and pride, the honour, if you like, of dockers, should be the major consideration in this Bill. Of course I acknowledge the importance of pride in one's profession and one's work, in good performance in that work but, again, I do not think that this kind of emotion can be catered for in a scheme which has such wide and public economic importance. We would not do that, for example, should there be a war on. I do not want to use further clichés or make further appeals to the Dunkirk spirit, but I think all of us are agreed that economically at any rate our backs are to the wall at this particular time.

We shall argue that we do not think that the Bill as at present constituted will bring a necessary change in job security or make a long-term contribution to the efficiency and economic wellbeing of the docklands. We believe that if we are to get this change, the wider interests, the other interests, other port users and the like, must have their say and that the best procedure for this would be by means of a public inquiry as at present obtains.

There are other interests involved in the docks than dockers. There are also other interests involved in the docks than consumers. Let us take other groups of workers—and we shall be hearing more about this when we come to debate the zone. We on this side of the House are certain that there will be an increase in demarcation disputes. As a result of the Bill dockers will surely wish to bring to tribunals instances of jobs which they think they should have but which they are being denied, and that, it seems to me, is why there should be an overriding tribunal in the form of a public inquiry, if you like, to see whether this Bill is to function as even the Government intend it should.

I have just given an example drawn from employees, from other sets of workers. May I quickly give an example from the other side, from the employers. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the cold storage industry, which has already been mentioned this afternoon in the context of the importance to our kind of community, country and economy of the import and export of raw materials, principally the import of food. We know that this industry has also, like the dock industry generally, gone through considerable changes in recent years; that it is a hybrid industry. Its traditional trade in refrigerated cargoes, in food as a raw material, has rapidly declined. Since 1967 the cold storage industry has expanded, I understand, by nine-fold, and that is a large amount in under ten years. It is housing at present more than a million tons of the nation's food supply and it is now a long-term public cold storage industry. This industry is no longer associated even to a modest degree with the traditional handling of refrigerated cargoes. Some parts of the cold storage industry, I acknowledge, still handle refrigerated cargoes, but the question of definition must be applied to the industry as a whole and we do not know what the proposed Dock Labour Scheme will do vis-a-vis this vital public industry.

It has been argued by the industry that the cold storage part of the frozen food industry, which has, as I have said, developed rapidly since 1967, is now an important part of the nation's larder and is quite separate from traditional dock handling of refrigerated cargo. Nothing in the present Bill acknowledges that this separation need be taken into account. I would agree, anticipating the response, with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, or the noble Lord, Lord Oram, that that kind of special account might not be able effectively to be written into the Bill, but it seems to me that before we can make the Bill actual we shall have to know more about what kind of vital consumer and public interests are maybe affected by the Scheme which this part of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to set up. And, surely, the way we do things at present, by public inquiry, is the best way to find out.

The ex-Secretary of State for Employment, Mr. Michael Foot, seems to have acknowledged on Second Reading at any rate in another place the point I am making. He said that: … long-established warehousing, storage packaging and cold storage operations, which are not related directly to work transferred from the docks and which are not connected with port operations, would most certainly not be classified as dock work and, therefore, subject to the new scheme."[Official Report, Commons, 26/7/76, col. 267.] That would seem to be encouraging, that in Committee stage in another place there seems to have been a certain degree of Ministerial backtracking on this commitment, and of course the post of Secretary of State for Employment has changed.

We on this side of the House seek a categorical assurance that the Bill will contain some kind of definition or the possibility of there being at a later stage a definition which, where a large industry is at stake, would enable an exception as important as this one—and there are other exceptions—to be made. And to clear up what the then Secretary of State, Mr. Foot, meant, I think that a public inquiry would also be useful.

I want to talk finally about publicity. Normally, when we deal with a Bill in Committee, the country as a whole knows a certain amount of what the Bill is about. I would contend that this Bill conceals under a superficially reasonable desire to protect dock workers from recent technological change many very comprehensive changes affecting everybody in the country which are not at present very widely known, and we believe that a public inquiry would also have the effect of making these known.

That, in brief, is why I want the Amendment in principle and in my closing remarks I will submit to your Lordships how I suggest it might be in detail. We want to provide for the holding of a public inquiry at which reasonable objections are raised to a scheme. We consider it a retrograde step in the Bill as it now stands that this is not so. The enabling Act which the Secretary of State is seeking to replace with a more powerful measure is the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act 1946. That Act enabled provision to be made for a scheme ensuring greater regularity of employment for dock workers and for securing that an adequate number of dock workers were available for the efficient performance of their work. The provision of particular relevance to the present position is Section 2(6), which states that: A scheme shall not take effect until embodied in an order made by the Minister in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule to this Act …

That Schedule lays down the procedure whereby the Secretary of State prepares and publishes a draft order embodying the Scheme and allows a period of 40 days for written objections. If objections are made and not withdrawn, he must then cause inquiries to be made. After considering the result of inquiries, he may make the order either in terms of the draft or subject to such modifications as he is prepared to propose. The Schedule places a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State to appoint an impartial person—and your Lordships must remember that this Bill has been acknowledged to be partial as between those involved in the dock industry on both sides of the industry—to conduct such inquiries and report thereon to the Minister.

The 1946 Act placed strict legal restrictions on dock work employment by giving a monopoly to registered employers and registered dock workers, and Parliament, by recognising the case for providing a right to objection and a right to public inquiry into the terms and scope of the Scheme, acknowledged already at that time that that was a far-reaching change. The changes involved this afternoon, I think we are all agreed, are even more extensive and important to our commercial and trading future, and that is why we present the case for a public inquiry into them. I beg to move.

6 p.m.


The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, ranged very wide in the earlier part of his speech. He explained why he wished to do so, and I make no complaint about that. He explained why he was unable to be with us at the Second Reading and naturally he was anxious to preface his moving of this main Amendment with an expression of his views on the Bill as a whole. I am coming to appreciate very much the more relaxed attitude that your Lordships take to these matters, compared with the rather stringent rules with which I was familiar in another place. Indeed, during the Summer I had some responsibility for the Weights and Measures Bill which was going through your Lordships' House and I recall that we then had a Second Reading debate almost at the drop of a hat. I understand and I make no complaint about the nature of the speech made by the noble Earl, but I think he will equally understand that I shall not attempt to reply to his more general observations at this stage. I shall confine myself to the provisions of the Amendment and that part of his speech which dealt specifically with it, namely, the reasons why he and his noble friends think that the public inquiry procedure should be added to the procedures already contained in the Bill. The noble Earl indicated that in his mind this Amendment should be read—and I entirely agree with him—with the proposed new Schedule on the public inquiry, and I agree also that Amendment No. 32 needs to be taken into account when we are considering this particular Amendment to Clause 4.

I think the noble Earl will recognise that this Amendment is substantially the same as one which was moved at the Committee stage in another place, and that applies also to the linked Amendments. The public inquiry procedure proposed in the new Schedule closely follows that provided for in the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act 1946; and indeed the noble Earl specifically referred to the 1946 Act and regretted that the public inquiry procedure in that Act was being discontinued in this Bill. But, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said during the discussions in Committee in another place, we believe that the procedure in Clause 4 of this Bill improves on the procedure of the 1946 Act. Under that Act the Secretary of State was required to prepare a draft embodying the scheme, to give notice where copies could be obtained, to allow not less than 40 days for objections, then to appoint the public inquiry and in the light of the results of that inquiry to make an order, either in terms of the draft or subject to such modifications as he thought fit; and the order under the 1946 Scheme was subject—and I stress this—to the Negative Resolution procedure.

We believe that to establish such a public inquiry is no substitute for proper Parliamentary scrutiny and debate, not only on the laying of a scheme before the House but in the case of any subsequent amendment to it, and consequently the Bill provides that the draft new Scheme and any amendments later which might be made to it will be subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure. Although the Bill does not expressly provide for this, the draft of the new Scheme will in practice be drawn up after consultation with the Board and with those interests represented on it and after taking account of any views expressed by those concerned with the industry. A few bodies have already commented on matters which the Bill proposes should be for the new Scheme, and any further views of this kind would of course be welcomed. The formal procedure in the Bill for representations to be made about the draft of the Scheme to the Secretary of State and for the draft to be amended, if appropriate, gives further opportunity for the views of those who may be affected by the operation of this Scheme to be made known and to be taken into account. Subsequently, as I have said, there will have to be the Affirmative Resolution in both Houses of Parliament to approve the draft Scheme.

I believe that these procedures allow full opportunity for the interests concerned to make their views known; to provide for a public inquiry in addition would make the procedure unnecessarily cumbersome. The report of a public inquiry in any case would simply be an additional factor which the Secretary of State would have to take into account in considering whether and in what way to amend the draft Scheme. He could not—and the new Schedule does not propose that he should—be obliged to make any particular changes as a result of the inquiry. He could completely disregard the views of such an inquiry. Therefore the Government believe that in this context the public inquiry procedure would be time-consuming, cumbersome and unnecessary, and it is for those reasons that I recommend your Lordships not to approve this Amendment.


We are dealing here with a very wide range of activities which are open to the Secretary of State. They include the preparing of the draft new Dock Labour Scheme under Clause 4, with all that it entails, and we are considering also the possibility of his amending the Scheme under Clause 4(9) by altering the boundaries of the area, and so forth, which is covered by Amendment No. 32, which in a sense is, I think, consequential upon this one. It means in fact that we are dealing with a vast area where a large number of major decisions are to be taken which can, and indeed will, affect the livelihoods of a large number of people. It will mean that decisions will have to be taken by those people as to whether they should start business in a particular area, whether they should expand their business, whether they should move to a different area, whether they should close down their business. All decisions of that nature will affect not only the employers but also obviously the employees, who are vitally concerned in such decisions.

In those circumstances we would venture to support very strongly the proposal that those decisions should not be made without a public inquiry being held first, and we venture to suggest that that is desirable for three reasons. The first is because a public inquiry contains the element of publicity which the present proposals do not contain—the present proposals in fact will all take place behind closed doors. Secondly, if in the result there are public inquiries and decisions are eventually arrived at, the probabilities are that there will be a consistency about the decisions, which otherwise will not be known and not appreciated. Thirdly, a public inquiry gives the opportunity which the present proposals do not give not only for putting forward representations on one's own case but for answering publicly the representations that are made on the case that is made against one, or on differing or parallel cases. In all those circumstances, we would suggest that the public inquiry proposal is a very substantial advance, and an important advance, on the proposal made in the Bill. Indeed, it would, I think, lead to people whose interests are being materially affected, both employers and employees, feeling that so far as possible justice is being seen to he done, which can never happen under the procedures which are proposed.

I make only one further comment, and that is this. It is suggested that it is an adequate safeguard that there should be approval by Affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. I could wish that that were so, but apart from the political realities, which mean that in fact an Affirmative Resolution these days is not necessarily a protection to the rights of the individuals who are affected by the Resolution, there is, is there not, a procedural difficulty—and I shall be corrected if I am wrong—in that it is not open to either House to amend an Affirmative Resolution. It must either be accepted or rejected en bloc. That would clearly be undesirable where the Resolution might contain matters of the detail that one envisages in these cases. In those circumstances, I hope your Lordships will agree that the public inquiry system is really an essential safeguard for the individuals likely to be affected by the Bill.


If it is in order to give strong support to my noble friend Lord Gowrie, the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said that he felt the new arrangement in Clause 4 would be an improvement on the existing method of a public inquiry. The noble Lord went on to point out that there would be Parliamentary scrutiny. But I am sure he takes the point from the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, that such Parliamentary scrutiny could often mean in practice—and particularly in the Session in which we are now engaged—that a very important measure for a particular area could easily be looked at towards dawn, or very late one night. Parliamentary scrutiny is an excellent idea, but the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has really shown up the fact that the political realities of such an idea are gravely defective.

The noble Lord, Lord Oram, also went on to say that the public inquiry might give the Secretary of State further insight into the conditions. Does the noble Lord regard it as likely that were such a public inquiry to be set up and to come out with a very strong recommendation, that the Secretary of State would totally reject the advice emanating from such a public inquiry? That was what I understood the noble Lord to mean, but perhaps I have got it wrong.


I said he could; I did not say he would.


I am grateful for that. Therefore, there is more than a minute possibility that the Secretary of State might do this. We feel that this is a very grave defect. Of course, in the three major speeches so far we have heard of the totally new concept of what is involved in dock work and everything to do with cargo handling. We are to believe that it would require a very radical review of everything to do with the livelihood of the many thousands of people who are concerned in what might turn out to be dock work should this Bill pass through Parliament in its present state.

I really must concur with the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, on this point. I believe that he produced three very good reasons for having a public inquiry. By far the strongest is the opportunity for conflicting interests to be cross-examined publicly in that particular area, geographical or elsewhere, where the interests of dock work and cargo handling is most important to those who are concerned. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Oram, thinks that this public inquiry system that he believes is written into the Bill in Clause 4 in its present form is satisfactory, because quite frankly, we cannot agree.

6.15 p.m.


There is one point I should like to add. A draft Scheme may affect different parts of the country very differently. Surely it may be necessary to hold public inquiries in different parts of the country. I doubt whether Scotland would he happy not to have a public inquiry under the draft Scheme, and probably the same would apply for Wales. But a public inquiry would bring out these differences, these different approaches. This must be of benefit to the Secretary of State himself, because under the Bill, in subsection (2) of Clause 4, once he has made a decision and obtained the approval of Parliament as to what the Scheme should be, the Secretary of State then has to make orders bringing that Scheme into force for areas designated by the orders.

We do not know what the areas designated by the orders will be. One would hope that at any rate this would be brought out in the course of the public inquiry. In any case, it would enable the Secretary of State to see from the public inquiry which areas were suitable in which to bring the Scheme into effect. It would be a great help to him. It is clear from the Bill that it is not intended—at least, I hope it is not—to bring the Scheme into all areas at once. It would show the Secretary of State what areas it could be brought into right away, which areas with some delay, and which areas not at all. This in itself would be of great benefit to the Secretary of State. This is not a matter just of the conflicting interests of different bodies, trade unions and the like; it is a matter of the conflicting interests of the areas which have also to be taken into account.


I should like to add to what my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, have said, but in going backwards, as it were, and doing away with the previous procedure, are the Government not working against the natural feelings of the country? Do not people now expect to have public inquiries for major matters which affect their lives? Does not the Dock Scheme potentially affect more people, more deeply, than, shall we say, a motorway? A motorway may displace some people's houses and may affect some farmers, but a docks scheme can make a tremendous difference to the work prospects not only of the dock workers, but more especially of the people who are not dock workers. Therefore, is it not wise, with the general feeling of the country, to think that people in localities which might be affected by major Government schemes, or schemes of Government immediate dependencies like the Dock Labour Board, should be subject to open inquiry and that all the people who might be affected should he given a chance to have a say?

As to the question of Affirmative Resolution by both Houses, the noble Lord, Lord Oram, will remember that only on Monday night at supper time, he and I were facing each other across this Chamber with such an order. He may remember that at that time this was a very small thing affecting relatively far fewer people than would a dock scheme. At that time, the main point which came out—and I think other noble Lords were in agreement on this—was that there had not been enough consultation with the people principally concerned, facing each other, as they would in a public inquiry, before this order came through and therefore the order was faulty. But we could not do anything about it because it could not be amended. Therefore, I suggest to the noble Lord that this is really something in which the Government need to keep up with the times rather than descending into the myths of past years.


Noble Lords who have taken part in this debate visibly have considerably less faith than I personally have in the value of our Parliamentary procedures. I recognise, of course, that there are difficulties in our procedures. One was mentioned a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, about the inability to amend an order when it is before Parliament. But I believe that many of the objectives which noble Lords are seeking through their advocacy of a public inquiry can be achieved, and better achieved, through Parliamentary scrutiny, Parliamentary debate.

The Earl of GOWRIE

May I make a point before the noble Lord moves on from that point. I am most grateful to him. How can he take this line, when scrutiny of this very Bill by another place was guillotined to the extent that something of the order of a third of the discussion on it was lost.


I can take this line because many Sittings were devoted to it; a great deal of scrutiny was given to it. But with a Parliamentary timetable such as we inevitably have—

The Earl of GOWRIE



—I fully admit that there are difficulties. The whole procedures of Parliament are capable of being improved. Indeed, I recall that when I first became a Member of Parliament many years ago, I had the temerity to bring about the setting up of a Committee on procedure, and some minor changes took place. We are always seeking, of course, to improve our procedures, and constantly battling against the enormously increased amount of public business that necessarily comes before Parliament. I am not denying that there are difficulties involved, as the noble Earl says, in guillotine procedures and so on. But despite all these difficulties, I claim that our Parliamentary procedures are the best way of examining Public Acts and the best way of informing the public. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, asked for publicity. I believe that the best publicity is that which is directed at the proceedings in Parliament.


If the noble Lord will allow me, I am sure he appreciates that the Amendment we are supporting does not prevent the Parliamentary scrutiny that he is proposing.


Yes; I am coming to that point. I recognise that the Amendment does not eliminate that process and put the public inquiry in its place. Noble Lords want both belt and braces in this matter, and I understand their caution in these matters.

That brings me to what I believe is a major argument against accepting this proposal. As was agreed earlier, this Amendment needs to be looked at not just for what it says, but in conjunction with the Schedule and in conjunction with Amendment No. 32. I am not at all sure that those who are responsible for these three suggestions have looked at the complete picture that would emerge if all three were written into the Bill.

It is worth my taking a little of your Lordships' time to explain the complex of procedures that would emerge if the Bill were to be amended in the three-fold way suggested. First, there would be the preparation in draft of the Scheme. Secondly, there would be the publication of a notice giving at least 60 days for representations to be made to the Secretary of State about the Scheme; that is the second stage. The third stage—if the Schedule were written into the Bill—would be that that procedure of the new Scheme would have to be operated; that is to say, if there were objections during the 60-day period and they were not withdrawn; that would be provided for under Amendment No. 32. That is the third stage. The fourth stage would be another publication of the Scheme—presumably that is what is intended—this time specifying a further period of 40 days within which representations may be made about it. Then would come the public inquiry, which is the main objective of this Amendment.

After all that, the Secretary of State would consider all that had gone on and publish a report; and then, and only then, would we come to the draft Scheme being before Parliament, except that even then he may make such alterations as he thinks expedient in the light of representations made during the first period of consultations. This, frankly, I believe to be laying procedure upon procedure, and would not bring about justice. It is more likely to bring about injustice. It amounts, in my view, almost to what might be called procedural sabotage of any Scheme that might be brought forward. I am not suggesting that those who have put forward these Amendments have sabotage of the Scheme as their objective, but I insist that that would be to a large extent the effect of what they are proposing.


May I ask the noble Lord, before we go any further, whether he heard or has read the very powerful speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, the other day on the Parliamentary procedure which the noble Lord himself seems to be in favour of? If I may say so, with great respect, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, had a great deal of experience in another place in a very powerful position, more experience than even the noble Lord who is answering this Amendment. In fact, I never heard the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, make a speech like that in the whole of my time in another place. He felt so strongly about it, so powerful was his speech and so powerful were his feelings about the procedure in another place that, if I remember rightly, he even voted with my Party in the Lobby. All I want to know is whether the noble Lord, Lord Oram, has read the speech, and whether he still feels as strongly that the procedure in the House of Commons is so suitable on a matter of this kind? If he has not read it, perhaps he will read it and do something about it.


I do not need to read it, because I had the good fortune of listening to it.


Did it not affect you?


Speeches by my noble friend Lord Houghton always affect me, just as speeches by the noble Baroness always affect me. It does not mean to say that I necessarily agree with my noble friend Lord Houghton, any more than I always agree with the noble Baroness. Of course, what she says is right; anything my noble friend says on these matters needs to be listened to with great attention. But I do not think that that gainsays what I said in more general terms about Parliament itself being the best forum to ensure that the public interest is served.

6.30 p.m.


I wonder whether the noble Lord has looked over the records to see how often a debate on an Affirmative Resolution lasts more than an hour or two hours. Is that enough to cover this case? Can he really say that this is an adequate way of discussing a matter of this kind? If Parliament is going to do this sort of job, what very often happens is that there is a Green Paper first and we debate that, as we have been doing with prices orders on occasion, and then later we take the order itself. But merely to have an Affirmative Resolution really gets one no further at all. If the subject is of that importance, it does not much matter whether it is an Affirmative or a Negative Resolution, it will get debated; but merely to rely on the Affirmative Resolution procedure is not a suitable way of dealing with a matter like this, because this is absolutely the end of the road, where there is no possibility of amendment, whereas the whole purpose of an inquiry is to suggest to the Secretary of State changes that may be made, or indeed to get the proposal withdrawn altogether. In most of the cases the inquiry results in some modifications in the proposals, and that cannot possibly be done in the case of the Affirmative Resolution procedure.


With the Affirmative Resolution procedure, the actual debate is, as the noble Lord says, the end of the road; it is the end of a process. It is the end of a Parliamentary process as well as of all the other processes which are involved in this Bill in drawing up the Scheme, publishing it, giving publicity to it, and so on. It is the final stage. Before that, as the noble Lord knows, there are plenty of opportunities for the business interests concerned to make representations through their Members of Parliament, or indeed through Members of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, speaking earlier, made the point that circumstances differ from area to area. Those areas have their local Members of Parliament, and during the process of preparing the order there is full opportunity for these representations to be made. I am not claiming that this procedure, or indeed any other procedure in Parliament, is perfect; what I am saying is that it is a superior procedure to that proposed by the Amendment.


Could the noble Lord clarify one point on the proposed procedure? If we are to have an order made under Affirmative Resolution it is unlikely that there is going to be a separate order for every new area and town designated. Many of those towns will be of 100,000 or 250,000 people, and there must be many thousands of communities that can, under this Bill, be brought by this procedure into the authority of the new port. It seems to me unlikely that we are going to have separate orders for every town. Therefore it is more likely that we shall have regional orders saying, perhaps, that from Hull northwards, or for the whole of the West Country, the zone shall include the named towns. If, with an Affirmative Resolution order, we can only reject the whole, how on earth do we make representations where an order may include possibly 40 towns, of which the Government's proposals for the area make sense in perhaps 30 of them and absolute nonsense in the other 10? We are going to be accused of wrecking tactics when we do not accept the areas where it makes sense, and we shall find it completely impossible to try to exclude an area which makes palpable nonsense.


I suggest that the noble Baroness is ignoring a great deal of the contents of the Bill now before the Committee. This is not the time to go into it, but we shall be coming later to Clause 7 in particular and other clauses which lay down an elaborate procedure whereby all the local circumstances in relation to dock labour can be put forward and carefully examined before the Scheme is drawn up. If this Bill is enacted there is no danger at all that local considerations will not be given the fullest examination.

Viscount SIMON

What I want to say may not be very popular in your Lordships' House, but I feel that while the noble Lord, Lord Oram, is perfectly right in saying that Parliament is the best forum we have for discussing and deciding on Public Acts, when it comes to detailed matters of the sort that will have to be included in a Scheme of this nature I very much doubt whether either House of Parliament—I must be careful in what I say about another place—or whether your Lordships' House is really a suitable place in which to discuss across the Floor of the House the details of the Scheme.

It seems to me, if I may draw an analogy, that it is rather similar to what we do with Private Bills which affect a large number of private interests. We do not discuss these across the Floor of the House because we recognise that the House, sitting as a House, is not really a suitable body to discuss this sort of thing. It is far better for the details of the Scheme to be examined at a public inquiry where the various interests can make their representations and where, as some noble Lords have already said, they can be cross-examined and can equally cross-examine the views of the other people, and it can be done in public. By the time a draft Scheme comes to your Lordships' House of the complexity of this Scheme, we shall no doubt debate it to the best of our ability but I very much doubt whether we are really competent to discuss it intelligently.

6.37 p.m.

The Earl of GOWRIE

I really feel that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, made my case for me. He said that we wanted both belt and braces. I think that this time we have caught the Government with their pants down. The noble Lords' colleagues in another place are in a shambles with their legislative programme. Whatever one thinks of this Bill, and we do not think highly of it, it is a very important Bill. Some of the motives behind it, as I argued earlier, stemming from the Jones/Aldington Report on London, we even acknowledge, but it certainly has not had proper scrutiny in the House of Commons. I think that we do no insult or injury to ourselves to acknowledge what the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has just said about our capabilities in going into so many regional and local divergencies in this House. That point was also made by my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith.

I want to take up quickly one or two points the noble Lord made because they really show our case in a clearer light than I can. He said that there would be time before the Scheme was set up for interested parties to make their views known. Exactly, but their views are to be known, to be scrutinised, by the Secretary of State and by the Board and not by Parliament. Parliament will only have the Affirmative Resolution procedure to fall back on. Earlier this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said that the Board would be required to make consultations, but he did not say with whom or what about. We have an enormous enabling Bill, giving to the Secretary of State greater powers over one area of employment than any other Bill on the Statute Book, and we are working in the dark about it. That was one of the reasons why the Bill ran into such trouble in Committee, and in another place. It is not usual for a Government Bill of this importance to achieve draws in Committee in another place where the casting vote in favour of the Government is given by a Conservative Chairman. That happened in many instances on this Bill, and many union members, working people as well as employers and other interests, object to it severely.

Lord Oram said that the Secretary of State could disregard the views of such a public inquiry. Of course he could; but my noble friend Lord Lyell pounced on that point. The Minister knows very well that it would be politically much too hot for the Secretary of State absolutely to disregard such views, and of course we could make life very unpleasant for him if he did. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wigoder, will forgive me emphasising a valuable point he made when he implied that the political realities of the present day are rather different. Naturally, I believe that my honourable and right honourable friends will be returned with a splendid majority; all the indications are that way. However, one would be a very arrogant Conservative to assume that our days of small majorities in Parliament, our days of high Parliamentary representation by minority Parties, are absolutely over. We know that the forthcoming legislative Session will be involved with devolutionary and other matters. It is not good enough to say that all is for the best and in the best of all Parliamentary worlds at the present time. If a public inquiry is not needed, as the noble Lord said—if it is a kind of superfluous, pernickety, pedantic insistence on our part—why does it obtain under a piece of Socialist legislation now? What I am arguing is that we do not get rid of something we have and something which the noble Lord and his right honourable friends found necessary when first considering the interests of dockland.

On the wider point, we all agree that the implications of the Bill are much wider than most people outside realised at the time of Second Reading, and that is why it has caused considerable contention and disagreement between individual union members. I do not say that with any air of triumph. It is not a condemna tion of individual unions to disagree with each other; in our economic system the function of unions is, to some degree, competitive. However, many trade unions and individual branches within one union, such as the Transport and General Workers' Union, have realised that their interests may be disparately affected by the Bill and I would guess that they would wish to seek to make representations under a public inquiry procedure. They have this procedure now. Why should they be denied it under the Bill?

In short, we are saying that we should proceed by the methods we have always used in this matter; that is to say, a public inquiry. I do not want to raise the temperature of the Committee. The Minister has been agreeable and we have had some amusing and delightful exchanges, but the noble Lord was totally unconvincing in his reply and took no account even of the earlier debates we had about the public interest. We feel that what the noble Lord and the Secretary of State for Employment must learn is that the many interests in the cargo handling industry and the small ports, to which we will come later, among other groups of employers and employees are disparately affected by the Bill.

We believe that the problems of business in this country and our present economic crisis can only be exacerbated by it, and that will not go unnoticed by people. Nevertheless, we still have an opportunity in this Committee for the noble Lord to allay our anxieties, and perhaps to allay some of the anxieties rampant among all groups on both sides of industry in the dockland industries, by accepting the Amendment, which is designed principally only to retain a well-tried procedure and which we think this extension justifies. I cannot understand why the Minister is being so stubborn about it.

6.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 116; Not-Contents, 54.

Airedale, L. Gisborough, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Gladwyn, L. O'Hagan, L.
Amory, V. Glasgow, E. Onslow, E.
Ampthill, L. Goschen, V. Orr-Ewing, L.
Armstrong, L. Gowrie, E. Platt, L.
Ashdown, L. Gray, L. Redesdale, L.
Auckland, L. Greenway, L. Rochdale, V.
Balerno, L. Grey, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Banks, L. Gridley, L. St. Davids, V.
Barrington, V. Harmar-Nicholls, L. Salisbury, M.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hawke, L. Sandford, L.
Berkeley, B. Hives, L. Sandys, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Hornsby-Smith, B. Seear, B.
Broadbridge, L. Ilchester, E. Selkirk, E.
Burnham, L. Inglewood, L. Selsdon, L.
Byers, L. Kemsley, V. Semphill, Ly.
Caithness, E. Killearn, L. Simon, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Kimberley, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Kinloss, Ly. Somers, L.
Clitheroe, L. Lauderdale, E. Spens, L.
Cottesloe, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Craigavon, V. Long, V. Strathclyde, L.
Craigmyle, L. Loudoun, C. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Crawshaw, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Cromartie, E. Luke, L. Sudeley, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lyell, L. Swansea, L.
de Clifford, L. Mackie of Benshie, L. Terrington, L.
De Freyne, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Tranmire, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] McNair, L. Trefgarne, L.
Deramore, L. Mancroft, L. Vickers, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Marley, L. Vivian, L.
Dundee, E. Masham of Ilton, B. Wade, L.
Ellenborough, L. Merrivale, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B.
Elles, B. Monck, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Elton, L. Morris, L. Wardington, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Mottistone, L. Wigoder, L.
Ferrers, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Windlesham, L.
Garner, L. Northchurch, B. Winstanley, L.
George-Brown, L. Norwich, V.
Bacon, B. Jacques, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Blyton, L. Janner, L. Segal, L.
Bolton, L. Kirkhill, L. Shinwell, L.
Brimelow, L. Leatherland, L. Slater, L.
Brockway, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stedman, B. [Teller.]
Champion, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Collison, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Stone, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. McCluskey, L. Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Maelor, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B. Melchett, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.) Milner of Leeds, L. Vaizey, L.
Gardiner, L. Oram, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Pannel, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.) Willis, L.
Hale, L. Peddie, L. Winterbottom, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Phillips, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
Henderson, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Raglan, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

6.53 p.m.


I suggest this may be a good moment to halt the Committee for an hour—that is, until 7.55—in order to take other business. I therefore beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.