HC Deb 31 May 1951 vol 488 cc48-50W
92. Mr. Hollis

asked the Minister of Labour why, in spite of recommendations made by the Dock Labour Board at the request of the Prime Minister in May, 1949, for the improvement of the lack of amenities in the docks, his Department in February, 1951, informed the Board that no further action by the Government was contemplated.

Mr. Robens

My Department did not so inform the Board. The following is a copy of the letter sent to the Board on 10th February:


When Mr. Isaacs received a joint deputation from your Board, the National Joint Council and the Dock and Harbour Authorities' Association on 29th November last on the subject of dock welfare amenities, it was promised that sympathetic consideration would be given to the deputation's representations. Although no conclusive decision has been taken on the points then raised further consideration has been give to them by the Department and your Board would doubtless like to have an indication of the result.

As regards the provision of canteens, on which the deputation suggested that existing legal requirements should be amended so as to be made to apply equally to all docks and wharves, the Department feels that it is quite impracticable to frame a general rule on this matter applicable to all circumstances in all parts of the dock areas. The existing statutory powers of the Minister do, however, appear to be adequate to require canteens to be provided where he is satisfied that the conditions and circumstances are such as make the requirement necessary and the Minister would accordingly be glad to have particulars of any cases in which it is felt that the canteen provision is inadequate in order that they may be investigated and that, if necessary, consideration may be given to the exercise of the powers.

The related question of a provision for the distribution of the cost of providing canteens among the port authorities and the employers of workers using the docks is much more difficult. Such a provision, even if it were felt to be desirable, would involve new legislation and the Department is not satisfied that a practicable formula for the distribution of cost could be devised. On the contrary, as the Dock and Harbour Authorities' Association were informed in 1947, the Minister at that time did not feel able to accept the view that it is unfair to impose on the dock authority itself statutory obligations to maintain certain safety, health and welfare arrangements and facilities for the benefit of persons employed at the dock.

As regards the inspection of catering establishments, it is understood that while the enforcement of the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, falls outside the jurisdiction of Port Health Authorities, they are nevertheless the responsibility of the appropriate riparian local authority.

The deputation also suggested that there should be new legislation placing on port authorities a statutory obligation to provide reasonable sanitary accommodation for dock workers. This matter has been under interdepartmental consideration and it appears that such legislation would necessarily involve amendment of the Public Health Acts, and for various reasons is not a matter which could be disposed of simply. Nevertheless, the Minister is happy to note that the authorities and employers concerned in the dock industry have (through their representatives in the joint meeting held on 1st August last) voluntarily agreed to undertake obligations and I am to express the hope that progress in the provision of further sanitary accommodation where necessary and in its maintenance, will proceed with the utmost expedition.

Yours faithfully,

(Sgd.) H. H. WILES

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