§ 7.43 p.m.
§ House again in Committee on Schedule 3.1227
Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 86:
Page 25, line 21, at end insert ("except for checking and recording as to quality where skilled inspecting and/or measuring and/or weighing and/or sampling is involved.").
§ The noble Lord said: With this particular Amendment I shall be continuing where we left off before our little dinner break, in seeking some clarification from the Government in respect of various definitions in Schedule 3 on the work which may turn out to be classified in the terms of the Bill. Noble Lords will be aware that there are many very specialised and intricate tasks which are carried out on or around or near the quayside, or within what we might term the dock area under the Bill as it stands amended in your Lordships' House. Amendment No. 86 is concerned with particular aspects of checking and quality weighing and sampling, and it is in these areas that we should look for some further clarification of the Government's thoughts on the particular application of these strange tasks and trades, some of which were referred to before dinner when mention was made of tally clerks and checkers. We were hearing that tally clerks in the Port of London were already covered, and we discussed them. I wonder whether the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will be able to give some indication of the Government's opinion or their thinking—in cases where the work done by some specialised clerks and other employees of particular firms which are unloading cargo—on whether these particular skills are of a nature which I think is not covered under Clause 8(4), which we were hearing about, and whether they would be roughly equivalent to those et present carried out by registered dock workers.
§ What I had in mind was where particular employees of owners of cargo are checking not merely for quantity, not merely for a given weight, but for a given type or grade, or for a particular kind of cargo or goods. Perhaps I could give an example of timber. I understand that in the timber trade at the docks much work is carried out by the tally clerks, who check that there are, say, 4,500 planks unloaded from a ship, which can easily be verified by weight or by checking or by numbers, but considerable further work is carried out virtually at the dockside, or on the quay, or adjacent to the quayside or 1228 warehouse, and a great deal of this work saves further checking and sorting at the ultimate destination of the timber.
§ This requires a very detailed knowledge of what is being handled, in this case timber. I am sure that it could also involve a detailed knowledge of other goods. In a later Amendment we shall be considering chemical liquids, oil and similar items. I have in mind at the moment a particular skill which may appear to be the same as that which tally clerks possess and which may indeed be virtually the same type of work as they are doing. But this example which I mention of timber, although I am sure it holds good for other bulk cargoes, involves a higher skill for which, let us say, an apprenticeship or training of three, sometimes five, years is needed.
§ The information we have received goes so far to suggest that these skilled checkers are indeed members of other unions besides the Transport and General Workers' Union, which I understand covers tally clerks and registered dock workers and—I think they are called—dock checkers, a category which I understand exists in the Port of London and I believe in other ports. I believe that they are more or less part-time tally clerks who might be, say, foremen of a group of registered dock workers and the foremen might carry out a tallying task from time to time to save a permanent tally clerk being in attendance, thereby saving costs.
§ We believe that Amendment No. 86 covers a group of workers whose skills are different, although they may appear to be broadly the same. They are different and they require greater training, greater experience and greater knowledge than could be possessed by the existing definition of registered dock workers. We should be grateful if the noble Lord could give some indication of the Government's thinking on this matter. I beg to move.
I am grateful for the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, introduced the Amendment and for the explanation he gave of the kind of work which he hopes his Amendment will cover. It is work which is dealt with by commodity cargo superintendents, and the noble Lord is quite right—they have an association of their own, called the Association of Commodity Cargo Super 1229 intendents, and their work is distinguished from simple clerical work in the way that he has indicated. The actual work can of course include simple work. It can vary from simple counting or straightforward taking of samples to ensure that goods are sound, through to quite sophisticated tests in such commodities as oil and chemicals. So I think that we have the same category of work in mind as we discuss the Amendment.
However, I am afraid that I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment, the main difficulty being over the interpretation of the word "skilled" which is included in the Amendment. Most work of the kind described will call for some measure of expertise, and it would be a matter of judgment whether or not the expertise required was such as to justify calling the work "skilled" work. But the case which has been put to us by the Association for the exclusion of the work of commodity cargo superintendents is based on the argument that their work is of a specialist character, requiring long training and skills which registered dock workers do not possess. But unless work was work which had been done elsewhere, or previously, by registered dock workers, it would not satisfy the prima facie ground in Clause 8(4) unless it called fortraining, aptitudes and experience the same as, or similar to, those of registered dock workers.This, I suggest, provides a reasonably objective test which would clearly prevent the classification of work of a genuinely specialised character. But we think it wrong to include in the Bill words such as "skilled", to which I have referred, which could need interpretation by the courts—and very difficult interpretation by the courts—before anybody knew what they meant. Moreover we believe that the Bill's procedures, which we have discussed many times, would prevent classification of skilled men where it was inappropriate. So though we recognise that the fears are genuinely held fears, we really believe that the Bill will remove those fears in practice.
§ Lord LYELL
I thank the noble Lord for what he has said and I should like to intervene at this stage. He mentioned that he found some difficulty in accepting the word "skilled" in our Amendment, 1230 but I hope that this is not going to be a prima facie case of where the courts would be asked to interpret; at least I had not that in mind. It might well come to that. It might be in the mind of the noble Lord that the courts would have to interpret the meaning of the word "skilled", but I hope that it could be decided and agreed by the owner of the goods which, as in my example of timber, might be unloaded at the quayside. I hope that it would be the timber trade that would be involved. The noble Lord mentioned a particular group of specialised workers—did he call them commodity supervisors? I hope that it would he what I think one calls the consignees of the cargo which is being landed who would be involved, and that this particular group would be able to settle the meaning of the word "skilled" as we have it in the Amendment. I should have thought that the courts would not necessarily come into the matter at this stage to interpret the word "skilled".
I think all of us in this Committee, and I hope elsewhere, can agree on the meaning of the word "skilled" in the Bill in this particular respect. It is that skill which is required for the particular tasks which are already carried out on the quayside in the docks. All we are seeking to do by this Amendment is to continue to allow these specialist groups to carry on their tasks. I do not think we are seeking to go further than that, or indeed to ask for amendment or clarification in the courts. I hope that such skills as are needed by this particular group—I will not call them registered dock workers, but workers at the quayside who are probably working alongside and in conjunction with registered dock workers, being checkers or tally clerks—can be determined by agreement with the ultimate client, who probably owns and is importing this cargo, specialist or otherwise. Could the noble Lord enlighten me further?
I accept that the noble Lord would not wish this point to be settled in the courts, and I should be with him in that. I think difficulty would arise, however, if we wrote the word "skilled" into the Bill. Then, even though he would not wish to contest it in the courts, someone might.
§ Lord LYELL
I would ask the noble Lord: Who is going to contest this word "skilled"? Because this begins to sow a doubt in my mind as to someone else outside this group of men who are already carrying out this skilled task and, indeed, the ultimate owners of the cargo that is being landed. These two groups of people understand what has to be done, and I think both groups and we understand that registered dock workers do not now possess the (let us call them) skills; that is, the technical knowledge, the expertise, the training. I understand they do not wish to possess it, nor, indeed, wish to carry out what I will call this skilled work. If the noble Lord wishes to say that the courts might be involved because we shall have to define this word "skilled" and somebody else who does not at present possess this expertise or knowledge may say, "I believe I have the skill to carry out this work and therefore this group of expert checkers are redundant and unnecessary", then I think we may have trouble; but I hope that this will not arise. I hope that there will be agreement between the owners of the cargo and their agents or representatives who are working alongside the docker checkers or the tally clerks.
I think there is in fact very little between us, in that the noble Lord used the words "by agreement" between these two sets of people, and I agree that the practical solution to the problem that he raises would be found by agreement under the procedures in the Bill. It is because I am confident of that that I do not think any writing in of an Amendment is necessary, particularly an Amendment which includes words which might be challenged by someone or other—I cannot define whom, but they might be challenged in the courts, and this would lead to difficulties. A lot of practical work on classification could be held up pending a decision in the courts as to what was in fact the meaning of the word "skilled" in this context, so I think it would add to the difficulties rather than remove them.
§ Lord LYELL
I think the point is very much the same as the one I was raising earlier so far as auditors are concerned, in that here is a group of people who carry out a specific task and who are agreed to have special technical skills. I do not think there will be a malevolent 1232 group of people coming along and saying that anybody is irresponsible and that another group of different persons will attempt to take over the job of these skilled checkers at the dockside, the agents of the cargo owners. I think the argument I raised earlier in relation to auditors is apposite here, and I am wondering whether the argument that the noble Lord put forward in answer to my argument about auditors is the same here.
No, I should not think so. When we were talking about auditors we were not considering whether or not their tasks were classifiable under this Bill. There is a difference. I agreed then that I should have another look at it later, but on that occasion I was suggesting that the words were not necessary. In this case it is not that I do not think the words are of that character: I think they could do harm. They could hold up the work of classification; and, for the reasons I gave, I do not think there is any real difficulty about the work that these people do not being classified. I think they were perfectly entitled, of course, to have raised the difficulty as they saw it from the point of view of their occupation, but I believe their fears have been ill-founded.
§ Viscount SIMON
Before we dispose of this Amendment, I wonder whether I could use the opportunity to ask one question of the noble Lord. He raised again the matter of Clause 8(4). I am wondering about the people who will have to interpret this Bill and work to it, and whether it would not be easier for them if the noble Lord would consider before the next stage of the Bill inserting at the beginning of Schedule 3 some such words as, "Subject to Section 8(4)", and then just going on. It is merely to call attention to the fact that the Schedule is subject to that clause. Otherwise people can so easily look at the Schedule and forget that Clause 8(4) has anything to do with it.
I accept that if even the noble Viscount missed the point—and he did—there will be many others who, in handling the Bill, or the Act as it will then be, might well miss it and that it might be helpful. There may be difficulties, and I would not commit myself, but I 1233 take the point that the noble Viscount has made.
§ Lord LYELL
I think we have had a fair discussion of this point and the noble Lord has gone some way towards answering some of the queries I had in mind. He certainly has not confused me as much as he did on Amendments Nos. 82 and 83, I think it was, previously. There are still some doubts in my mind, but I should like to consider this matter to see whether we can achieve a slightly better definition of what we seek to put into the Bill. I know the noble Lord says that there is a risk of confusion, but I think the noble Lord was making millimetric moves in our direction. I felt we were coming towards agreement, in that he concurred that there were groups of specialist checkers who worked alongside the tally clerks, and there is this word "skilled". We will see whether we can achieve a better meaning; but, given that, I would beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.10 p.m.
Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 87:
Page 25, line 22, leave out from ("repairs") to end of line 23 and insert ("involving unskilled general work in the dry coopering, needlemen and "box knocking" categories").
§ The noble Lord said: This particular Amendment is very much in the nature of Amendment No. 86, which I have just withdrawn, but in this case we are not looking at particular or outstanding skills but much more at categories of work which are carried out at and around the dockside. The noble Lord, Lord Oram, will possibly be much more familiar with these categories than I am. I have received excellent explanations and definitions of them, but I understand that, in general, they are not restricted to any particular group of skilled worker but that in some cases they are carried out by, and in fact in most cases are usually restricted to, or would be restricted to, registered dockworkers under the Scheme who are not or might not be fully fit for the normal category of dock work and who therefore might be placed on light duties. I understand that the categories set out in the Amendment—dry coopering, needlemen and "box knocking"—are three categories of light 1234 work which is carried out in or around the port area and which is apposite to the persons who would be registered dockworkers, but at the same time it might be done by other workers who would not necessarily need to be registered dockworkers, simply because much of the work is, I understand, part-time or will be carried out from time to time as the need arises.
§ I understand that dry coopering and box knocking is very much the same now in that dry coopering has gone out considerably, and while wet coopering is still carried on it requires a considerable apprenticeship and therefore would be covered under Clause 8(4) or it might come under another category and definitely is excluded from classification. I should be pleased to hear what the Government view would be of these particular categories which can be carried out at present either by registered dockworkers or by other, non-registered, dockworkers. The latter category could not possibly be said to be placing the livelihood or the work of registered dockworkers in jeopardy. I beg to move.
§ 8.12 p.m.
I would not claim to be more expert in defining these crafts than is the noble Lord. Some of the names remind me of a once popular television programme, "What's my Line". I should prefer in answering the noble Lord to keep to the more general principles. Perhaps I could remind the Committe that this Amendment was moved in Committee in another place. The words in the Bill at that stage were:executing minor repairs to anything in which cargo is packed".This wording was criticised on the grounds that it would enable a wide range of minor repair work which was clearly outside the dockworkers' field to be considered for classification.
My honourable friend the Minister of State in another place accepted that the wording in the Bill as it then was might be too broad, and the present wording (which is now the subject of the noble Lord's Amendment) was substituted at the Report stage by a Government Amendment. The present wording is designed to make it clear that the paragraph is intended to cover repairs to all kinds of containers in which cargo might 1235 be packed and also things such as pallets on which cargo is stacked, as distinct from repairs to lorries, ships or fixed installations such as warehouses which might conceivably have been held to he things in which cargo is packed. I think the noble Lord will recognise that this is a distinct improvement in wording; but that it seems reasonable in appropriate cases that work of minor repairs to all such containers and pallets should be capable of being classified as dock work. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit not to press his Amendment.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Before my noble friend decides what he is going to do, and as the noble Lord is going through this category of general port work which may be classified, may I make one comment? We hear more and more about appropriate cases and varying circumstances, and I cannot help thinking that this rather makes nonsense of the general classification of dock work that we were considering before when it was suggested that the appropriate place to challenge what was dock work and what was not was in the courts. Here you have such fluctuating meanings of all these things and so much uncertainty that it does not seem to be a matter for the courts at all. It seems to me that it should be a matter very much more for some kind of expert technical decision. It is merely the words the noble Lord used at that time which prompted this remark. I should have raised the matter sooner had not someone withdrawn the Amendment on which I was about to raise it. I wonder whether the noble Lord and his noble friend could look at this point before the next stage. It seems to me that if you are going to cover matters in regard to which the only challenge is to be in the courts their definitions must be absolutely cut and dried.
I was not suggesting that there would be a wholesale resort to court decisions. I was speaking in relation to one particular word about which I saw a particular difficulty. Of course there will be different judgments as to how appropriate are certain definitions in the Bill. There always are and will continue to be. I think it will, in practice, be a common sense application 1236 of the procedures in the Bill. It will be for the Board, having received all the detailed local information about traditions and so on, to place its recommendations before the Secretary of State. I will look at this point, but as I stand at the moment I am not really so fearful as the noble Lord seems to be.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Possibly the noble Lord was not here when we discussed this matter, but he is falling into the same trap as my noble friends seemed to have done. We are talking here not about the classification of dock work but about the definition of dock work in this part of the Bill. I understood from his noble friend Lord Jacques that this is a matter which could only be challenged in the courts and that it was not a proper subject for the appeal procedure.
§ Lord JACQUES
It is common practice that if it is necessary to interpret the words of a Statute, whether in the Schedules or the clauses, the proper authority for giving the interpretation in the last analysis is the courts and not the tribunal.
§ Lord LYELL
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Oram, and my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, for attempting to enlighten us on this Amendment. I was relatively satisfied with the reply from Lord Oram, but he mentioned that the paragraph as it stands includes "minor repairs to containers, crates, boxes, pallets" or other articles. It struck me that everything after containers "might be construed as requiring relatively simple repairs. It would not require a great deal of skill to repair a wooden crate or to knock in a nail. But containers are made from steel or from steel and aluminium or glass reinforced polyester, and therefore minor repairs to containers is a different matter. The subject involved two or three debates at the Committee stage in another place. They chased a number of hares—even to London Airport. Mr. Ridley suggested that the dockers might be carrying out minor repairs to aircraft at London Airport because the area fell within the original five-mile limit.
Repairs to containers present a problem in that they require metalwork, skilled welding and treatment of aluminium and other complicated tasks which I should not like to see possibly being classified as general dock work. In view of what the 1237 noble Lord has said in respect of my original Amendment, and in deference to the comments made by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment but reserve my position to seek further clarification at a later stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.20 p.m.
Lord MOTTISTONE moved Amendment No. 87A:
Page 25, line 33, after ("baggage") insert ("or possessions").
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 87A with which I should like to couple Amendment No. 87B. I have something of a privilege: we have been discussing a lot of rather abstruse qualifications which apply to dockers, and I am going to talk about ordinary people. The Government have a great advantage because, having looked at all the Amendments, these are ones on which they might be able to do a demonstration run in the acceptance of them. They have not done that for any others up to now. This is their great moment. They are talking about the common people, not anyone else.
§ I unashamedly say that this relates to ferries in small places such as the one between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. I come from the Isle of Wight, as I confessed at Second Reading to your Lordships. It also applies to such as the ferry I know which runs from the vicinity of Greenock to the Isle of Arran. There are no doubt many others which I have not the privilege of knowing.
§ Some people walk on to those steamers with their own baggage. In another place the Minister said that baggage might be carried on board by a porter. So it is not just the owner, though that is what it says in the Bill. But one also motors on board these ferries in one's own vehicle. On top of the vehicle there might be a dinghy. That can hardly be described as baggage. That is why I have included the words "or possessions" in my Amendment. A car may have a trailer, and also the car may be driven by a wife, daughter, son or even a friend.
§ Likewise, when one walks on board a steamer with some luggage, the luggage may be carried by a son, and he would not like 1238 to be called a porter. Though in another place they cleared the word "porter", they did not clear "son". The phrase is rather precise at the moment: "carried on board by him". That implies that a person has to walk and, furthermore, he has to carry his own baggage. There is not much option.
§ It is reasonable that those things should not be thought of as cargo within the meaning of this great Bill. It is something which is much better done by the person himself, the ordinary citizen who is as free as he dares to be in the world that we have around us. He hopes to drive his own vehicle on board, using his own resources, family and relations, to carry his bits and pieces; to be able to tow his trailer with a boat on it or something of that nature.
§ These are things which are going on every day, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, with his great connections in Portsmouth, will know this only too well. I should have thought he would be on my side. Perhaps he has been on holiday to the Isle of Wight, or visited the island on business. It is a world which is so separate from the complications and long history of difficulties of the dockers' endeavours to get things right and to make sure of the privileges which they can reasonably have, taking into account other people. We are not talking about that. We are talking about ordinary people, travelling perhaps on business or on holiday to little places in this country where they have to travel by boat either because there is no alternative—as with the Isle of Wight—or because it is very much quicker, as with certain parts of Scotland and no doubt other parts of England and Wales.
§ I suggest to the Government that this is their big moment; this is the time when they can say, "There are no problems. We accept both Amendments". I invite the noble Lord, Lord Oram, to say that to me now.
§ 8.25 p.m.
I have been looking for my big moment ever since I came to your Lordships' House; but I am sorry that I cannot go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I can offer him some consolation in relation to his interesting Amendment. I have listened 1239 with interest to what he said about the motor car and trailer. I should like to look at the points he raised. We shall be having a debate later covering road transport. I should like to consider what the noble Lord has said with any points that may be raised when we come to that, and also in connection with the point about the authorised representative for carrying luggage. In practice, the noble Lord will find that there is no great problem here. However, I am prepared to look at this.
Under the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, for 25 years the possibility of this difficulty about friends taking baggage on board has always existed. It has never arisen. In practice, if we apply common sense and are not stubborn—as the noble Lord urged me not to be—we shall find our way through this. Regarding the first point, about possessions, I am not in a position even to suggest that this is worth taking back. It is the last two points which are worth looking at and I give the undertaking.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
Am I right in saying that the noble Lord will look at Amendment No. 87B, but rejects the "or possessions" part in Amendment No. 87A? Is that right?
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
Could the noble Lord explain why not "or possessions"? I had a long discussion with the Public Bill Office about the appropriate word, because it was clear that "baggage" is not good enough to cover a boat on top of a car or carrying the family silver in a box. That is hardly baggage. There are all sorts of things which you might want to take on a ferry. Those noble Lords who are not used to being separated from the great mainland—not to mention these other little countries to the North which are troublesome—do not realise that things are taken which ordinary travellers do not carry which cannot properly be described as "baggage". I appreciate that he is going to look at Amendment No. 87B, but I should like to know why he rejects "or possessions".
I agree that I was a little eliptical in dealing with the first Amendment that the noble Lord put forward.
1240 I thought that he would be so gratified that I was going to look at the second and the third that he would not seek to ask for an explanation. I agree that an explanation is due to him. It seems that it adds an unnecessary gloss to existing words to include the word "possessions".
The term "personal baggage" must cover the various possessions which a passenger personally accompanies on board. The paragraph is so drafted so that the work, for example, of moving a passenger's baggage by crane into the hold of a ship can be classified as dock work because that obviously involves the same work as putting other cargo into the hold of a ship. In our view the word "possessions" does not add anything to the Amendment. Possessions are either part of the baggage or else are carried about the person of the passenger. But I see that the noble Lord had in mind possessions in the motorcar, and I see that in his mind the three are linked and therefore, although I think that the result of my looking at these things again will be firmly to reject the point about possessions, I will agree to look at all three, since they are obviously connected, before returning to the point at Report stage.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord and, with that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 87A.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.31 p.m.
Viscount SIMON moved Amendment No. 87C:
Page 25, line 34, after ("him") insert ("but").
§ The noble Viscount said: In the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Airedale, I hope I may be allowed on his behalf to move this Amendment. As the Committee is aware, my noble friend is very interested in the correct use of English and I think it upset him very much that there were two clauses numbered (i) and (ii) with no connecting conjunction. Obviously if there is a connecting conjunction the correct word is "but". If my noble friend were here I do not think he would want to divide the Committee on this point; he merely wanted to draw attention to the fact that it would look better if the word "but" were inserted after the word I "him". I beg to move.1241
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
I wish strongly to support the noble Viscount, particularly as it gives the Government an opportunity to be conciliatory for yet another time consecutively.
I think twice so quickly would be too much. I agree with the noble Viscount that his noble friend Lord Airedale raises some interesting and valid points concerning drafting matters and the correct use of English—as he puts it—and I often have congenial personal exchanges, not only in the Chamber but outside the Chamber, on these points. In this case, however, I think it will be conceded that adding the word "but" really adds nothing to the sense. I do not want to make much of this, but to a slight degree the word detracts, because if one puts the word "but" there it implies that there is a connection between the personal baggage exclusion, which is in paragraph 8(a)(i) and the inclusion of things taken on board from the sea or the seabed, which occurs in the next line. I think the linking word implies in some way that there is a connection between them. So I was rather glad to hear the noble Viscount say that he was not proposing to divide the Committee and I shall take courage from that and resist the Amendment.
§ Viscount SIMON
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I will make only one last suggestion, which I will just leave with him. This is again a matter of presentation. I believe if he reads the two clauses he will see that it would be better if (i) was the included thing and (ii) was the thing it did not include. Oddly enough, that balances it a little better. I leave that thought in the noble Lord's mind and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The Earl of GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 88:
Page 25, line 38, leave out from ("be") to end of line 40 and insert ("loaded as cargo become "cargo" when they are physically received by the stevedore, wharfinger or lighterman from the sender or his agent").
§ The noble Earl said: We now start to deal with the definition of "cargo". I want to take Amendment No. 90 with this Amendment. In Amendment No. 88 we want to find precisely the point at which goods become cargo, and in 1242 Amendment No. 90 we wish to define precisely the point at which goods cease to be cargo. Your Lordships will be aware that last week the Committee voted to remove the five-mile zone; that is to say, we objected to what we thought was a geographical arbitrariness and we tightened up this geographically arbitrary area, as we saw it, into a much more precisely defined area within the reach of harbours. In a similar way, in these Amendments we are seeking to tighten up the definitions of "function"—not merely where dock work takes place but what dock work actually is.
§ Amendment No. 88, referring to the stage at which goods become cargo so far as exports are concerned, should be taken with Amendment No. 90 which refers to the reverse position in respect of imports. The purpose of the Amendments is to confirm the already accepted understanding of those who are employed within the port transport industry as to the point where registered labour is to be employed and where non-registered labour may undertake operations, and to do this by providing an acceptable and practical definition of the term "cargo" which accords with custom and practice within the docks industry—and I would also say, following noble Lords opposite, which accords with common sense, and indeed which has been confirmed in the past by the decisions of industrial tribunals. In other words, these Amendments seek to define "cargo" in such a way that the point at which goods become cargo on their way to the ship or cease to he cargo in the case of imports, cannot be argued or considered contentious.
§ May I first consider the case of those goods which are to be loaded as cargo; that is to say, Amendment No. 88. These arrive at the receiving point, whether it be dock, wharf or quay, in the vehicle designated by the consignor or his agent. The goods are unloaded from the vehicle by the registered dock workers employed by master stevedores or wharfingers. Such work is traditionally dock work. Our Amendment seeks to make this the stage where the goods become cargo, when unloading of the goods from the vehicle commences. Before this point registered dock workers would not have been interested in the goods and after this point the consignor or his agent hands over responsibility for further handling of the goods to 1243 the employer of the registered dock workers. He is then given a receipt for his goods and is not directly concerned with the loading of the goods on to the vessel. Your Lordships will see that we are trying to be as precise as possible here.
§ In the same way, cargo which is unloaded from a vessel is unloaded by registered dock workers who are responsible for transporting such cargo to the vehicle designated by the receiver or by his agent. That is Amendment No. 90. Obviously the receiver has neither the wish nor the necessary skill—and this Bill is partly engaged in trying to define which skills are the skills properly belonging to dock workers—to become involved with the cargo handling process. In other words he is not poaching. In accordance with custom and practice the cargo is then loaded on to the receiver's vehicle by registered dock workers and at this stage, when the cargo is physically handed over, it ceases to become the work of dock workers and becomes the responsibility of the receiver.
May I give a simple example of a coffee merchant importing bags of coffee? The merchant does not attempt to unload his bags from the ship: his responsibility begins when the bags of coffee are loaded on to his vehicle. Correspondingly, even if the coffee is to be stored in a warehouse within—under our definition—half a mile of the harbour, the dock workers who unloaded the coffee should not be concerned with it any longer. Their responsibility for the cargo ceased once it was loaded on to the receiver's vehicle. The Dock Workers Employment Scheme 1967 stated one of its objects as being:
To ensure greater regularity of employment for dock workers".
This Dock Work Regulation Bill states as one of its purposes to:
Provide for new arrangements for classifying work as dock work for the purposes of the scheme and in particular to provide stability of employment for dockworkers".
§ We feel that Amendments Nos. 88 and 90, if implemented, would provide for greater regularity and stability of employment within the port and transport industries by confirming within the Dock Work Regulation Bill the exact stage where dock work commences and where dock work ends, already accepted by custom and practice in the docks. We consider that the Amendments would go 1244 a long way towards avoiding the possibility of disputes by removing a controversial geographical limit, replacing it with an unmistakable, unarguable and already accepted physical definition of the stage at which goods become cargo and at which they cease to be so. In sum, if the concept of an arbitrary geographical zone is to be retained—and we have at least tightened it in earlier Amendments—it remains, nevertheless, essential that there be a clearly defined breakpoint at which goods that have been discharged from a ship cease to be cargo and those that are loaded on to a ship become cargo. We are, incidentally, particularly concerned with the effects of this section of the Bill on the cold storage industry, about which much mention was made at an earlier stage of the Committee. I beg to move.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
I should like strongly to support my noble friend, if only to make sense of the Bill. It could be argued that the two Amendments of my noble friend are consequential on Amendment No. 11A, and something has to be done to make sense of it. It so happens that my noble friend has greatly improved the general character of this particular subsection. I am sure his arguments will be easily acceptable to the Government.
§ 8.43 p.m.
Both the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, and the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, in supporting this Amendment, have referred to the work we did, or undid, last week in relation to the cargo handling zone. Of course, there is a link between what this Amendment proposes and the decision that the Committee reached last week. The noble Earl said that he and his friends are trying to be precise. They are entitled to have that as their objective. They do it, and I do not think the noble Earl would dispute this, by seeking also to be more restrictive in relation to the classification of dock work. He claimed that the principle of the restrictions he is seeking to introduce was a functional principle, and that he was doing it on functional grounds.
It seems to me that this Amendment, as indeed some others—I have not made this argument strongly in connection with some of the other Amendments—precisely because it makes classification more precise, is capable of leading to more 1245 rather than fewer industrial relations problems. The reasons why the Government believe that it should be possible to classify work undertaken up to five miles from the high-water mark were given during the debate last week on the Amendments to which I have referred.
As is well known, the Committee passed Amendments restricting the area within which work could be classified to half a mile from harbours. These two Amendments, however, could prevent much cargo handling work undertaken even within half a mile of the docks from being classified, and could lead to illogical distinctions between various situations. The point has been made before that difficulties have arisen under the present scheme because legal decisions as to when goods cease to be cargo have been related to the number of handlings of the goods after they have been unloaded.
This has led to situations where some work undertaken in or very near dock areas has been declared not to be dock work when other similar work undertaken nearby is dock work. As I said earlier, this kind of distinction is bound to cause industrial relations problems. It is most desirable, if we are to avoid it, that we should do so by the procedure set out in the Bill.
The Earl of GOWRIE
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, began by using a very reasonable and conciliatory tone because he seemed to be on the verge of accepting that these Amendments were in spirit, if you like, consequential on the geographical Amendments we carried earlier. The noble Lord then hardened somewhat. I am not surprised at his hardening, but he puzzled me when he said that our Amendments were capable of leading to more rather than fewer industrial relations problems. It would seem to me that the first thing one would wish to do in seeking to avoid industrial relations problems would be to define with some precision, as we have tried to do, who does what, where. It seems to me that what we are after is to try to decide what dock work is.
It is quite untrue to say that we on this side of the Committee do not accept that there have been considerable changes in the docking profession, and that following the report of my noble friend Lord Aldington in collaboration with Mr. Jack Jones we may need new definitions of docking activity. But to say that we 1246 need new definitions of docking activity with one breath, as it were, and with the next breath to slap down any attempts to find what, in the new circumstances, docking activity should be, I would contend would surely yield to the sort of problems between one group of worker and another which we on this side are seeking to avoid. I gave the fairly obvious and homely little example of the coffee merchant. Let me try to think of another.
Imagine that one were bringing goods into Liverpool for ultimate sale in this country. Imagine that for some reason or other—perhaps some dispute in connection with customs and excise, or some problems with delivery, perhaps even as a result of industrial action—it became necessary to store goods which had come in to the Port of Liverpool somewhere within the five-mile zone. f am perfectly well aware that we have amended this to a half-mile zone, but that is because we are an eminently sensible and reasonable body of people, but we cannot always assume that another place will be as reasonable. It may well be that they will have a stab at putting back the five-mile limit. I cannot judge whether they are going to do that. But let us come back to the situation before the Amendment, the situation where there is a five-mile zone.
In my example, let us assume that here are goods in bond or store for some reason or another near Liverpool. Then, the problem is solved. The goods can be shipped to another area within five miles of Southampton. While I acknowledge that other tests would then be applied, it might be that their unloading within a zone of five miles from Southampton or even, under my earlier Amendment, within half a mile of the Port of Southampton, would be classified as dock work. This would seem to me, much more than the option suggested by noble Lords, the kind of situation where there would be ambiguity as to the number of handlings of goods after they have been unloaded.
I hope the noble Lord can give me a little more assistance on this, because I cannot imagine that the Department has not had representations on this score. We know to our certain knowledge that groups of workers within the Transport and General Workers' Union—and this is widely conceded to be something of a TGWU Bill—have shown a great deal of disquiet about its effects. The noble Lord has never tried to deceive us and has 1247 never been naive with the Committee, and I do not believe he is being now. I would welcome his comments on this.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
In the approach of the Government to this problem, I detect that they are looking at it from only one point of view; from the dockers' point of view. It seems to me that to them almost every lot of goods is cargo, whereas the ordinary trader, the manufacturer, the businessman, the merchant, does not talk in terms of cargo, except in regard to insurance on board ship and bills of lading and so forth; he talks in terms of consignments, and a thing is a consignment until it becomes a cargo. What one has got to fix on principle, is when a consignment becomes a cargo, and I would have said myself that the definition in this Amendment is apt to settle the principle. Will the Government approach this from a matter of principle and not constant expediency in order to pacify one section of the working community? I do not think that is the right way to approach it.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
Perhaps I might say a few words in support of my noble friend. I am a little concerned at the statement the noble Lord, Lord Oram, made, I think at the end of his speech, that this Amendment would lead to more industrial relations troubles rather than less, and my noble friend Lord Gowrie picked this up. I should very much like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Oram, whether he would expand on that a little, because it seems to me that if this is true there is something wrong somewhere. We all recognise that the dockers want to protect their position; they do not want to have their jobs swept away because of the introduction of containers and other methods of modern cargo handling, and that is why we are sitting here today and trying to tackle this Bill.
But I think most of us also recognise that if they get assurances of one sort or another that are more than a certain degree of reasonableness they are going to have to take other people's jobs. They may not take jobs immediately from people who are actually doing them now, but they may as a group of people prevent other people from having the same open markets of jobs, if you like, as they had before. It is a sort of narrowing, restrictive effect on other people, all of which to 1248 me seems to indicate that we must have some sort of definition.
If we do not have a fairly tight definition, my judgment is that, so far from having worse industrial relations problems because we have got a tight definition, we will have worse industrial relations problems because we have not got a tight enough definition. There will be more room for people to be jealous, in a given area, of a group of dockers, who perhaps are more vociferous than in another area, persuading the local dock labour board, and ultimately the Secretary of State and all these grand people, that they justify holding jobs X Y and Z, which in the end narrows the market for the main line of people who might otherwise be able to use it. I hate to say this to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, because he has been so kind to me on earlier Amendments, but it seems to me that he has got the situation upside down. I am sure this cannot be due to a brief or anything as primitive as that; he must believe it. Can he tell us why he has got the situation, as it seems to me, upside down?
§ Lord SOMERS
Could the noble Lord tell us whether he agrees that one of the chief sources of had industrial relations is uncertainty; uncertainty as to whether you are being given the amount of work which is right, uncertainty whether you are being asked to do more than you should and other areas of uncertainty. Surely this Amendment is doing the very thing to remove that; it removes all uncertainty, and it lays down absolutely in black and white what is and what is not dockers' work.
§ Lord LUCAS of CHILWORTH
While the noble Lord, Lord Oram, is being bombarded with questions, could I ask him one other? Is his reluctance to agree to Lord Gowrie's Amendment due to the position which obtains at the moment? In certain ports agreements have been entered into which have enabled dockers to take on new type works, and if the Amendment were agreed to there would have to be, as it were, a climbing down. For example, at Southampton, I understand, much of the container work within and outside the five-mile limit is carried out by agreement by dock workers, Scheme workers. I must confess that my support is for the Amendment because one has to know exactly where one is. Is his reluctance to accept the Amendment because such 1249 an agreement as has been entered into in Southampton would be void, and would have to be undone? Is it perhaps the fear that something which has by custom arisen is going it be put out of court, and would have to be undone? Is this the reason for his reluctance to accept this fine definition of what are goods and when they become cargo?
§ 8.59 p.m.
May I begin with one point of agreement as between the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and myself; that is, what we are about is seeking new definitions as a result of changes in dockland. But that, I think, is the extent of our agreement, because we divide on the methods by which those definitions are to be brought about. The Amendment we are now discussing, which the noble Earl suggests should be put into the Bill, would, in my view, provide restrictive definitions, and it is for this reason that difficulties rather than improvements in industrial relations would arise.
In my view—and I am not beginning to suggest that I am now producing arguments which will convince noble Lords opposite—the best way to handle tricky industrial relations problems is by the procedures laid down in the Bill; that is, the procedures provide for a very careful consideration of all the many local considerations of custom and tradition, and what is and what should be dock work and so on. I believe that that is the method which is best used rather than attempting, within the Bill itself, to lay down hard and fast lines. It is that which would lead to difficulties.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, I believe that it would create uncertainty rather than remove it. Uncertainty will be to a very large extent removed when the Scheme is brought into being. That will be a crucial new stage following the passage of this Bill. To the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I would say that it is not a case of any particular group of workers climbing down. It is our fear that new definitions in the Bill, such as the noble Earl proposes, would in themselves raise difficulties which would upset industrial relations. It is not a case of we do not want people to climb down from postures at present; it is more our fear that these Amendments would lead to increased rather than lessened difficulties.
1250 May I give an example. The Amendment would have this effect: suppose a stevedore had a warehouse on the dockside which stored coffee. Goods handled by that stevedore would be cargo even in the warehouse. But if another stevedore sent goods to that warehouse for storing, then the Amendment would say that all associated work on those goods would be classifiable. We would have the same goods, the same job in effect, in one case classifiable and in one case not.
Another difficulty that I see arising if the Amendment is adopted is that it would prevent work in container groupage depots being classified. I recall to the Committee that it was one of the principal recommendations in the Aldington-Jones Report, which I think all will recognise as having been quite a milestone in dealing with dockland's problems. Perhaps I should read the recommendation of Aldington-Jones in relation to container groupings:Container groupage work should to the greatest practicable extent be carried out by registered dock workers. But if by other workers then only under proper conditions of work, and all undertakings which handle groupage containers should satisfy themselves that these requirements have been met.I am advised that, if the Committee were to accept the Amendment, then it would prevent the carrying out of that recommendation of the Aldington-Jones Report.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Viscount SIMON
I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, is contemplating pressing this Amendment. If he is, I wonder whether he could answer one question, because I am puzzled. May we go back to his coffee merchant. The bags of coffee have been discharged from the ship and moved to a warehouse. I was not clear from what he was saying whether, if the warehouse was within the five-mile limit—if he was assuming that it might go back to that, or even within the half-mile limit—if the work in that warehouse had been classified, he was arguing that it should not be dealt with by registered dock workers discharging from the vehicle into the warehouse.
§ Lord LUCAS of CHILWORTH
Before my noble friend replies, could the noble Lord, Lord Oram, explain to us his interpretation of the recommendation of 1251 the Aldington-Jones Committee which he has just read to us. While that recommendation is of a general nature, it seems to me that it is the noble Lord who is putting a particular accent upon it. Could he explain what he sees that recommendation meaning? If it is of a general nature, then anything to do with a container can he classed as dock work, because it happens to be in a container depot, because it happens to have been used for, or is to be used for, the carriage of cargo. For example, does the noble Lord think that the engineering work that is necessary to maintain a container should be dock work? In fact, if he accepts that recommendation in its general terms, how can a true division of labour be made?
No, it is not the case that all work in a container depot would be classifiable. The provision to which attention has been called on a number of occasions by myself and by my colleagues is that the work would need to be in substitution of work previously undertaken by dockworkers. If the noble Lord reflects on that, he will realise that other categories of work would not qualify for classification.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
Could I suggest one consideration that we might have in mind here. The noble Lord has been urging on us greater flexibility, and suggesting that what is contained in the Bill at present will allow greater flexibility than precise definitions laid down. I would suggest to him that you cannot have it both ways. If you are going to have a single national Scheme, you are bound to create that on principle, and you arc bound to apply the principle equally everywhere. At the opposite end to that you get the local port schemes where, within your local port areas, you can make your own decisions to suit your own circumstances. The discussion so far on this Bill has shown how far it is deviating from what I would think were the right lines on which to go. I would have conceived that it would be far better to leave the discretion at local level, and that it is going to be chaotic to take the discretion to board level on a national scale. If one is going to deal with this on a national scale, then it can be dealt with only on principle firmly applied and not in the loose way that the noble Lord seemed to be suggesting.
I was not suggesting anything loose. Principles, yes—they have been debated and they are contained in the middle clauses of the Bill, and that is the general guidance, with the more detailed procedures enabling the local circumstances to be taken into account. The noble Lord may not agree—obviously he does not agree—with the content of these provisions, but they meet the point he has raised.
§ Lord DRUMALBYN
I should have thought that the clauses in the middle of the Bill did not deal with principle at all but with certain circumstances and the ways in which they will be dealt with. There is nothing about principle there. On the contrary, the Board is left to decide classification on particular premises and is given wide discretion. Although the Government seek to define what dock work is, they are still given a great deal of discretion as to whether in fact work will be classified in those premises. I am saying that unless we can get the principles on which that discretion will be used, we shall be in trouble.
The Earl of GOWRIE
With the leave of the Committee. I will answer a question put to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, as to the meaning of my little anecdotal illustration about a coffee importer. My example was looking forward to the road haulage debate. I was contending that one of the reasons why we need reasonably precise definitions of what dock work should be is to enable us to decide when dock work stops being dock work. I was contending that even if coffee were to be stored in a warehouse within half a mile of a harbour—or, should the Bill suffer the misfortune of having the five-mile zone put back, within five miles of a harbour—it would then cease to be the concern of dock workers any more; it would then become the responsibility of the merchant, coffee importer or whoever it might be.
That answer to the noble Viscount responds also to the point made by the Minister when he accused me of seeking restrictive definitions. One could argue that all definitions are to some degree restrictive; it would be hard to define without a sense of exclusion and, to parody or imitate the last Prime Minister, one could say that we feel that one man's restriction may be another man's protection, and that is partly what we are seeking to do by the Amendment.
1253 May I make a brief comment on the question of containerisation, and I do not want to anticipate the later debate, either tonight or on another occasion, that we shall be having on this subject. I suggest that the Minister and his noble friends should be aware of a danger to dockers themselves in persistently thinking of containerisation, that technological innovation to which we must adapt in this legislation as being the way of the future. In fact there is a strong case for arguing that containerisation in this fast-moving technological age is something of the past because what we can see—one could demonstrate this quite easily—is a marked growth in roll-on, roll-off traffic. One of the things that we on this side are contending is that if one constantly has an ambiguity as to who does what and where in dockland—perhaps I should say in the profession of docking—one will increase the economic viability of roll-on, roll-off, increasing the likelihood that importers and exporters will not risk using docks if they can avoid it. This is a problem to which noble Lords opposite have not addressed their minds. My instincts are that we should press the Amendment, because although t he Government have made criticisms of it, I cannot
§ see that those criticisms are substantial. At least this may concentrate their minds furiously on how to amend it.
§ Viscount SIMON
Before the Question is put, may I tell the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, that he did not quite reply to my question? Returning to his coffee merchant, he said that once the coffee was put into the warehouse, albeit within the half-mile limit, it ceased to be cargo for the purpose of the Bill. I was not clear whether he admitted that the act of putting the cargo from the lorry into the warehouse was cargo handling within the meaning of the Bill.
The Earl of GOWRIE
We defined it that once the initial cargo was unloaded from the harbour—and the noble Viscount will be aware that we have now tightened up the definition of "port" and given legislative value to the phrase "harbour"—it ceases to be the responsibility of the docker; it then becomes the responsibility of the merchant.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 88) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 37.1253
|Amory, V.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mottistone, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Elton, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Balerno, L.||Ferrier, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Glasgow, E.||Newall, L.|
|Blakenham, V.||Gowrie, E.||Pender, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Gray, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Burton, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Caithness, E.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Inglewood, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Chelwood, L.||Ironside, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Killearn, L.||Somers, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Lauderdale, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Lloyd, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Long, V.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Lyell, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Macleod of Borve, B.||Vickers, B.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Monck, V.||Wise, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Henley, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hirshfield, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Jacques, L.||Simon, V.|
|Brimelow, L.||Janner, L.||Snow, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kennet, L.||Stedman, B. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Collison, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||McCluskey, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Maelor, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Murray of Gravesend, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Foot, L.||Oram, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Grey, E.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 9.22 p.m.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Henley)
Amendment No. 88 having been agreed to, I have to tell your Lordships that I cannot call Amendment No. 89 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. Amendments Nos. 91 and 90 appear in the Marshalled List in the wrong order, but I understand that they are to be called in that order. I understand that Amendment No. 91 is not moved.
The Earl of GOWRIE moved Amendment No. 90:
Page 25, line 40, leave out ("and") and insert—
("( ) goods which have been loaded as cargo in a ship cease to be so when they have been physically handed over by the stevedore, wharfinger or lighterman to the receiver or his agent; and").
§ The noble Earl said: This is consequential upon the vote that we have just had. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Lord MOTTISTONE moved Amendment No. 91A:
Page 25, line 41, leave out ("capable of carrying cargo") and insert ("normally used for carrying cargo on the open sea").
The noble Lord said: This Amendment, rather like the ones I moved earlier, seeks to protect the position of those small steamers that operate between, shall we say, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight or other coastal areas where, effectively, the ships are not going on the open sea. If I may be allowed to do so, I should like to quarrel with the use of the phrase
a seagoing ship capable of carrying cargo".
I need only mention Dunkirk. Your Lordships will remember that ships that were not designed to operate on the open sea—and there were some of our Isle of Wight steamers which had the honour of taking part in that operation—are perfectly capable of doing so if the emergency arises. Furthermore, "seagoing ship" is a very wide phrase. One can imagine one of those little ferries which cross the Mersey as being a seagoing ship. It is seaworthy. It is a good ship in a seaway. It is not designed to go on the open sea, but if an emergency which made it necessary came about, it might be described as being capable of carrying
cargo as a seagoing ship. Therefore what I am saying to the noble Lords on the Government Benches is that this is a very wide sort of definition which can be extremely misleading, and although I would not guarantee that mine was very much more precise it is, I think, an attempt to reach what the definition was seeking to cover rather more precisely than the existing one does. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Oram, could give me his view of the rival definitions and say whether he does not think it would be reasonable to accept mine in the meantime while we both thought about it for something even better still.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, always puts a nice little bit of bait on his hook as he concludes his speech, and I have learned not to nibble. The Bill as drafted defines as "cargo" "goods which are or are to be or have been loaded as cargo in a sea-going ship". "Sea-going ship" is a term of art used in the merchant shipping legislation and basically means a ship which is legally permitted to go to sea, and it excludes ships not entitled to go outside sheltered estuarial waters. The term is often used in other legislation. For example, it forms the essential part of Section 57 of the Harbours Act 1964, which formed the basis of Amendment 11A which removed the concept of the cargo-handling zone from the Bill.
As the noble Lord has explained, the object of his Amendment is to exclude ships normally traversing narrow stretches of water, such as across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, from the definition. The term "the open sea" has, however, no legal meaning and the Amendment would probably not have this effect. Indeed, the Amendment might have the effect of excluding from the definition of "cargo" some goods which were going on to the open sea and even abroad. There are some vessels which can go to sea but are generally engaged in estuarial traffic. Goods loaded in such a ship would under this definition never be a cargo, even on an occasion when the ship was bound for abroad. So I think the noble Lord will see that there are difficulties in his definition, just as he believes that there are difficulties in the Government's definition.
§ Lord SOMERS
Would the noble Lord say where the fishing fleet stands as 1257 regards this matter? They are sea-going ships and they carry cargo, their own cargo of course. And, incidentally, what happens to that cargo when it arrives ashore? Is it handled by dockers or by special men of the fishing fleet service?
On that specific point I am afraid I have not got the answer readily to hand, but I will seek it and let the noble Lord know.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
That is really very disappointing of the noble Lord, Lord Oram. I thought he was doing so much better earlier on. It really does seem rather unreasonable. I must not interrupt; there might be a good message coming through, but perhaps the rest of your Lordships would like to know that as far as I can see the definition in the Harbours Act 1964, to which I am referred, does not occur in latter publications. Perhaps those in the Officials' Box might like to listen and find out whether they can tell me where it is. I am sorry, my Lords; perhaps I should now address myself to the Front Bench. I did not want to interrupt in case there was important news coming, from wherever it comes from.
§ Lord JACQUES
That is a little unreasonable. We were collecting information, which had been requested by a Member of the Committee, so that we could give it to the Committee.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
I hope that your Lordships will forgive me, but I think that when one is in the middle of a speech and there are not many Members on the Benches opposite, it is rather disappointing if one has to go on talking when one waits for discussions to take place. I should now like to return to the charge. I fully admit that it is very difficult to find a suitable definition, and I fully admit that mine has all kinds of flaws, but I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, that so has his. I fully accept what he said about my Amendment, but he did not really hoist in what I thought was quite a good explanation of how one might find a ship which is described in my way as being able to go all the way to the West Indies with a cargo unexpectedly. I have in my Amendment the word "normally" which the noble Lord's description of where my Amendment was faulty did not seem to 1258 take into account. He was really faulting it on the abnormal use of the vessel concerned, rather than on the normal use, because I believe that the key point is to get this word, "normally" into the matter.
On the other hand, as well as rather striking my definition down without due consideration to what was really behind it, the noble Lord did not really recognise that his definition is not very much better. It is faulty on the other side. As I was saying while he was busy with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, he referred to a definition in the Harbours Act 1964, and I have turned up the section with definitions in it and there is nothing in it about sea-going ships. It says:'ship', where used as a noun, includes every description of vessel used in navigation, seaplanes on the surface of the water and hover vehicles, that is to say, vehicles designed to be supported on a cushion of air.Forgive me for laughing: there is nothing about a sea-going ship. There may be another Part of the Act which describes a sea-going ship—
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
Yes, I was looking at Section 57, and reading from it. So I think that perhaps there is some advice missing here. In view of the fact that the advice is not as full as it might be, I suggest to the noble Lord that his acceptance of the possible fault in the existing wording of the Bill is not quite as generous as it has been in the past. But perhaps he would agree to look at his wording to try to match what I am trying to do. I am not trying to be unreasonable. If that were done, I would agree not to press my own version.
§ Viscount SIMON
Before the noble Lord replies, I should like to say that I think the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is being just a little unreasonable here, which he is not often. He complained that the definition in the Bill made no reference to what was done normally. But if he reads it he will see that that is exactly what it says:… a sea-going ship capable of carrying cargo (but not including any in whose case cargo-carrying is an abnormal or exceptional use)".Surely this is exactly the point. We have a sea-going ship which does not normally 1259 carry cargo. It might be somebody's yacht. It might occasionally carry a few pieces of cargo, but that is an abnormal or exceptional use of the ship.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
If the noble Viscount will forgive my saying so, I think we are at variance about what is normal. It is the "normally" in terms of being on the ocean that I am concerned about, not the "normally" in terms of carrying cargo. It is the ocean-going part which I wish to have as a normal operation, the instance in which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, talked about the ship that could go to the West Indies when you were not looking, but normally did something else. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount about the term, "normally" in relation to cargoes.
It is obvious that I have not given my usual degree of satisfaction to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and I am anxious to keep up my record. I therefore undertake to look at what he has said. I do not anticipate that I shall be bringing forward any Amendment to meet the point that he raises, but I will seek to bring forward a better explanation than possibly I have been able to give this evening. I hope that, with that undertaking, he will agree to withdraw his Amendment; but while I am on my feet may I now give the information for which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, was asking? If he will refer to the second Part of the Schedule that we are now considering, Part II of Schedule 3, and to paragraph 13, he will find that that paragraph excludes small fishing vessels, and I think he has the information in that paragraph.
§ Lord SOMERS
I must apologise to the noble Lord because that point had been drawn to my attention after I had spoken, and I am afraid I asked the noble Lord a quite needless question.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, for being so courteous in undertaking to look at this as deeply as he can—perhaps I write a little too much into it—and perhaps we can have something hopeful for the future. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1260
§ 9.37 p.m.
Lord LYELL moved Amendment No. 92:
Page 26, line 12, at end insert—
("(c) by the National Freight Corporation or any subsidiary of that corporation;").
The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 92 we come to take a closer look at Part II of Schedule 3. We might call this the sunny side of the Schedule, in that here we are going to look at and examine work which is, we hope, fairly definite and which will, at last, bear some semblance to that for which we on these Benches have been searching for most of the long hours of this afternoon and, indeed, throughout the Committee stage. We are looking for some definition, some certitude, of the kind of tasks and the kind of work which will or will not be classified. This Part is headed,
Work excluded from classification",
and it seems that the Government have laid out a very wide strata of types of work which they intend shall not be included as classified work under this Bill.
When we come to look at paragraph 9 we see that this paragraph deals with, I think it is, corporate bodies but, above all, industries and undertakings under national ownership or control. Then it goes on to say,
or … any subsidiary of a body corporate so established".
Then it produces two exceptions to this work which is excluded from classification, the British Transport Docks Board and the British Waterways Board. Noble Lords may not be aware that there is another very large concern which I think falls into the category of paragraph 9. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary, and it is called the National Freight Corporation. This body corporate, we believe, presents several problems to some—I am sorry; the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has a point?
§ Lord JACQUES
May I suggest that it would perhaps be to the convenience of the Committee to discuss Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 together.
§ Lord LYELL
I had proposed to deal with No. 93 separately at a later stage. May I reserve the position? I do not intend to speak to Amendment No. 93 with this Amendment. If the noble Lord wishes me to, I might make a mention 1261 of it; but my major comments were going to be on Amendment No. 92. Such comments as I have on No. 93 I should like to deal with separately, if that would be to the convenience of the Committee. The National Freight Corporation has a very large subsidiary which has invested very heavily in recent years in the public cold storage industry. During the last two years or so it has entered the commercial field of cold storage and food processing in a fairly substantial way—a field in which we understand it has had not much previous expertise or experience. Apart from the difficulty that we and others have found in verifying and pursuing the financial considerations of these particular operations, there are some problems that we should like resolved by the Government. Some estimates that we have been able to make show that approximately 10 per cent. of the cold storage industry in the United Kingdom is operated by the National Freight Corporation's subsidiary. Yet, according to paragraph 9 of Part II of Schedule 3—and I had been happy to come to this Part of Schedule 3 where I thought that, at last, we were going to have some certainties—this wholly-owned subsidiary of a body corporate, publicly-owned, is going to be totally exempt from all the uncertainties which afflict the rest of the cold storage industry.
Apart from these uncertainties and fears for the future and the additional costs which are now threatening 90 per cent. of the privately-owned cold storage concerns, we should be interested to hear why the Government believe that the National Freight Corporation should be excluded from the effects of the Bill which we have before us. We believe this presents—I would not go so far as to say "unfair competition"—a problem of competition which we feel is unjustified.
In addition to entering into the cold storage industry, the National Freight Corporation has in the last two years expanded rapidly in the United Kingdom as well as on the mainland of Europe, not merely in the cold storage industry but also in various other fringe activities of cold storage, such as tank storage and waste disposal. So far as operations across the water in Europe are concerned—and these will impinge on the finances of the British National Freight Corporation—the development on the mainland of continental Europe does not seem to have 1262 matched up to the forecasts which have been made for this operation.
From the research we have made, we are unable to discover much information about the success or otherwise of what is now being carried on in Europe, and we should be interested to see whether the Government could enlighten us on this or give some indication of how the operation carried on in Europe is different from any operations carried on by their competitors in this field.
Fairly substantial investments have been made in this field of cold storage in the United Kingdom as well as on the Continent of Europe. These investments have been made in cold store depots and other acquisitions. I have mentioned tank storage. Other roll-on/roll-off services are included in this. We are concerned at being unable to find any reasonable commercial, financial or economic justification for the Freight Corporation entering into this field. Also we wonder what is the chain of responsibility in the National Freight Corporation and who is responsible for this particular subsidiary.
§ Lord JACQUES
May I suggest that the noble Lord is asking these questions at entirely the wrong time. It has nothing to do with this Bill. I certainly cannot give him the answers.
§ Lord LYELL
Would the noble Lord agree that cold storage has some interest in this Bill? We understand it does.
§ Lord LYELL
I believe—and I think the noble Lord and the Committee will agree—that we have been through finance, commercial viability, and financial efficiency in the Bill. Many believe that the commercial and financial viability of a major competitor to the privately owned cold store industry is of relevance in this Bill. We believe it is fairly relevant to this sector of the Bill. We may have more to say on specific attitudes and specific concerns in the cold store industry at a later stage. So far as we can judge, this is the right time to discuss this problem which concerns us. I would hope for an indication from the noble Lord on this. Naturally, in raising a fairly substantial subject, we could not expect the noble Lord to give detailed 1263 answers tonight; but he could give an indication.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
I want to confirm that my noble friend's judgment as to this being very much the concern of the Bill was substantiated by the petition that I sent to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. The concern in Peterborough is that the cold storage under the facility of the privately owned one is very relevant. The questions my noble friend is asking— if they cannot be answered now—are relevant and the answers ought to be given at some stage.
§ Lord JACQUES
Clearly, the financial viability of a nationalised undertaking is not relevant to the Bill. It is an Unstarred Question. I have no objection to answering, but it is not relevant to this Bill.
§ Lord LYELL
Could the noble Lord tell me if the financial viability of a major participant in the cold store industry is relevant to the Bill? I believe it is, particularly where the increase in freight which might or might not accrue to this large concern, the National Freight Corporation, could, and I believe will, be affected by the financial support that is available. For an Unstarred Question we would ask for specific and narrow details. There are large sums of money involved, £10 million or £100 million, or whatever the figure is, and that is some indication of what we have been able to achieve so far as this very large participant in the cold store industry is concerned.
The noble Lord may think that 10 per cent., 11 per cent., or 12 per cent. of the cold store industry in the United Kingdom is not relevant, but we believe that it is. There are fears among other members of the cold store industry in the United Kingdom who wonder why this wholly-owned subsidiary of a body corporate, which is publicly owned, wishes to enter into the cold store industry. There is no reason why it should not wish to do so on commercial terms; but the indications that we have been able to find are that the commercial aspect is receding into the distance. We believe that there is a desire on the part of those large concerns to enter a sector, which is the cold store industry—I will not say "cost what may", but with a financial and cost efficiency which is moving further and further down the list of priorities.
The Earl of GOWRIE
I think we are out of order here because until the Question has been put I understand we are not allowed to engage in debate. In fairness to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, I think it was my noble friend who was initially out of order and I suggest that we should wait until the Question has been put and then engage in as many fireworks as we see fit.
§ Lord LYELL
If I may put at rest the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, I regret that I could not find evidence tonight before we rise, but certainly I would endeavour to have a decent array of figures for him should he wish them. I have not mentioned specific figures because I have not got the accounts before me. If I had, perhaps I should be able to make an even stronger speech; I should be able to condemn this practice outright.
I should like to move on swiftly. The National Freight Corporation appears, from the researches that have been done by the cold storage industry and the National Freight Corporation—and the National Freight Corporation, naturally, is a part of that industry, but is a publicly owned sector of the cold storage industry—to be pursuing a somewhat unfettered, and, we would consider misguided, policy of acquiring businesses without due regard to the cost. We believe this is somewhat unjustified and unreasonable in view of the pressures that are being brought upon the cold storage industry by the Bill. Yet this major competitor, with already 10 per cent. and possibly even a growing share of that cold storage industry is, it would appear, exempt from the pressures and the additional costs which the Bill will place on the cold storage industry. The National Freight Corporation's subsidiary is exempt from that.
We have been able to do some research into the profit and loss record of the particular wholly owned subsidiary of the National Freight Corporation, and it appears from the records that we can obtain, and which naturally are available to the public, that the financial viability 1265 of this operation is not really satisfactory, as might be acceptable for a private company or for a member of the 90 per cent. which is at present in private hands, and we would seek some justification or explanation from the Government as to why this very large competitor in the cold storage industry is to be excluded from all responsibilities and the additional costs of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord JACQUES
There is a subsequent Amendment which seeks to bring in British Rail in addition to the National Freight Corporation. The Government believe that the historic and close links between the National Freight Corporation and British Rail make it equally desirable to apply a similar exclusion. Consultations have been held with the employers—that is the Corporation—and all the trade unions concerned. From these consultations the Government are satisfied that it is never likely to be appropriate to classify any of the work of these clearly defined groups which are not connected with the docks industry.
In the public sector the Government can be certain that there are proper terms and conditions of employment, and proper forms of worker participation and other protections which the Scheme provides. The Government feel that this is a case where both employer and trade unions have agreed that it is not likely to he necessary to come within the Scheme for the regulation of dock labour, and accordingly they do not propose that they should be brought within the Scheme.
§ Viscount SIMON
I took it that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, in fact was speaking to both this Amendment and the next one.
§ Viscount SIMON
Then the noble Lord is speaking only of the National Freight Corporation. I must say I find it difficult to see quite why this nationalised body should be treated differently from the other nationalised bodies which are concerned, in one way or another, with activities within the scope of this Bill. The noble Lord says that the nationalised body over whose Board no doubt the Government exercise some influence and the trade unions concerned are happy that it should not be so included. Does the 1266 noble Lord mean by that that the employees of the National Freight Corporation in fact will have the same benefits as the employees on the dock side, and that they will have the same security of employment? He says it is unnecessary for them. Why is it unnecessary for them? I do not follow the logic of this argument at all.
§ Lord JACQUES
I usually find that the trade unions say it is unnecessary when the status quo will give them better results than a change would give them.
§ Lord WIGODER
Would the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, help me with one question? Accepting, as I am sure he does, that this is in no way decisive as to what the wishes are of the Corporation or a company as to whether it should be included or excluded from a particular Bill, is it not the wish of the National Freight Corporation that they should be included in this Bill?
§ Lord JACQUES
I can say that the National Freight Corporation and the trade unions concerned have been consulted. After those consultations, it is the view of the Government that they should not go in at the moment. There is not likely to be any occasion when there will be pressure for them to go in, either from the employer or the trade union.
§ Lord WIGODER
I am sure the noble Lord must realise that he has not answered the question. Have the National Freight Corporation expressed the wish to be included in the Bill?
§ Lord JACQUES
My understanding is that the National Freight Corporation have said that it is unnecessary for them to be brought within the scope of the Bill.
§ Lord LYELL
I may not have phrased my question clearly. I was concerned with the financial viability and with some of the reasons why we felt that the National Freight Corporation should not be given the exclusion which it appears to have under paragraph (9) of Schedule 3. It seems that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, is replying on a parallel line, but is not replying to the question to which we are seeking an answer. The noble Lord says that the trade unions and the National Freight Corporation are happy with the status quo. I wondered about the trade unions and the cold storage industry, the 90 per cent. which we have 1267 not mentioned. I do not think they are very happy. Above all, it is the trade unions and some of the employers, but in many cases it is the employees of the cold storage industry, of the 90 per cent. not covered by the National Freight Corporation and the wholly owned subsidiary who are most unhappy. I really cannot say that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has given us any answer as to why the Corporation subsidiary should be treated differently from any other nationalised concern or, indeed, other concerns in the cold storage industry. I beg to move.
§ Lord JACQUES
Before the Question is put, may I remind the noble Lord that in the Bill as it stands, and as amended in
§ House resumed.