|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Davis : It is indeed, as I hope I am demonstrating. Ernest Bevin made some impassioned pleas, in the House and before royal commissions, about how the docks should be organised. He said much with which I would agree, especially when he said, in effect, replying to questions about what might happen, "I no more support the idea of people being paid for doing nothing if they are
Column 1057employees than I do if they are employers and capitalists." He would today look with concern at what we have created in the dock labour scheme.
The fear of casualism should disappear for two reasons. First, it should go because--the arguments have been deployed--of the capital intensity of the modern port and the type of work undertaken by the modern dock worker. The hon. Member for Garston made that point earlier today, and I thank him for doing so.
There is another reason. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West conjured up images, out of a book, of the old days of the casual system. We have talked about the acceptability or otherwise of 6 per cent. casualism, but the people in that 6 per cent. are not suffering the casualism that people think about when they talk about the history of the scheme. It is different from what people fear. As hon. Members know, I have been antagonistic towards the scheme, but I accept that originally it was well intentioned. Therefore, how has it done so much damage? The answer is long and complex, but the key point is that it broke the link between the interests of the individual worker and the prosperity of the company for which he worked. It rendered that link unviable--
There is another aspect which Opposition Members talked about at some length and with a great deal of passion. In some ways, their argument was plausible. It is worth addressing the arguments about joint consultation because it sounds a good idea. I proposed to a Conservative party conference in 1973 that we should pass laws to enable worker participation, and I am still here.
It is worth examining how joint consultation has gone wrong in the docks. We have heard many arguments about an inordinately high proportion of people who have been dismissed for disciplinary reasons being subsequently reinstated by the local or national dock labour board. There was an argument that perhaps they were all innocent, but we dealt with that by pointing out that some of them had served time in prison for criminal offences which related directly to their work.
We must ask how that comes about in a reasonable system. The problem is kicked up to the National Dock Labour Board which consists essentially of half union and half management representation. That means that the union has the ability to block a decision but not to change it. What happens then? Anybody who has been dismissed for a disciplinary offence is put on the temporarily unattached register and will receive fall-back pay of up to £200 a week. He will stay on the TUR until a decision is reached or until somebody has to pay him £25,000 to
Column 1058leave. That is what is meant by a job for life in this context. That is not how I think joint consultation should work, but that is what happens in the dock labour scheme.
Another example is that of dock work definition. There have been many arguments about that issue as new business comes into the ports. I can cite examples in Ipswich, Grangemouth, Hull and so on. In the port of Ipswich there was some sea-dredged gravel to be handled. All that had to be done in the docks was for a button to be pressed on the bridge which led to automatic unloading. That was it. Yet the dockers of Ipswich insisted that that was their work. The matter went up to the National Dock Labour Board and stayed there. It was never solved. The result was that the person who was going to bring that work to Ipswich lost patience and went elsewhere. The same happened at Grangemouth and a number of other ports. That is how a perfectly plausible, perhaps Christian-sounding idea became a destroyer of jobs and a destroyer of discipline.
We cannot afford such a scheme in our ports today. We are an island, so our entire industry depends on our ports. It is right for my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) to speak in this debate because he has as much interest as we have in the matter. The issues are our ability to compete and jobs. Much has been made in this debate, and previously, about the fact that dock labour schemes exist in other countries. But international competitiveness has got to them too. Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Spain are all removing their dock labour schemes, and France is considering doing so at the moment and studying our experience. Those countries know that these schemes destroy jobs.
The Labour party's attitude--and I admit that there are many hon. Members who are impassioned and convinced of their case--has, in general, been irresponsible and dangerous. The Labour party has learnt nothing in the past 10 years. It is ever generous with other people's money, ever defensive of the vocal vested interest over the public interest and always supports the plausible over the practical. Labour's policy review this week demonstrates that its new maxim is that politics is the art of the plausible. I am afraid that Labour Members are not plausible enough tonight.
Mr. Malcolm Bruce : Several hon. Members have already asked questions about the status of the Bill, which the Government should answer in this debate. I believe that the Bill is necessary and that to phase the scheme out and to create a competitive system, in which all ports can operate on an equal footing, is desirable. However, I am puzzled about the way in which the change has happened. The Government have, after all, been in office for 10 years. There have been suggestions tonight that there has been a sustained conspiracy between the Government and the port employers and that the abolition of the scheme was planned in advance. The way in which it happened does not square with that. John Turner, for example, the general manager of the Aberdeen harbour board, has been trying to persuade the Government to abolish the scheme for years and the Government told him to go away. It seems that the Government had no intention of removing the dock labour scheme, as has been claimed by those who are vigorously defending it up to the last minute, who
Column 1059suggest that the scheme should continue and who claim that it was no great obstacle to progress for the scheme ports.
Now we hear a variety of arguments being trotted out--many of which I agree with--and evidence has been drawn up to suggest why the scheme should be changed. Yet until three months ago the Government were denying that evidence and saying that it was unnecessary, untrue and irrelevant. They told harbour board managers to go away and cope with the situation as it was because the Government were not going to change it. What happened? Suddenly, after 10 years, the Secretary of State for Employment came to the House, published a White Paper that day and a Bill the following day and forced the Bill through rapidly, with a guillotine. He is now anxious to get it on to the statute book.
Unlike Labour Members, I will not speculate about the reason for that change. I want to hear from the Government the explanation about what happened and what were the factors involved because the British public are also entitled to know why there was such a dramatic change.
The timing was certainly interesting. One argument that I have heard was that until that point the Government had felt that the scheme could wither on the vine because the number of workers had reduced to fewer than 10,000 and many arrangements being made in individual ports that were moderating and modifying the effects of the scheme, and allowing new investment to go ahead and new agreements to be reached with employees who were outside the scheme, even in scheme ports, thus effectively enabling progress to be made. However, if that was the case, one might assume that, having got that far, the Government might allow the withering on the vine to continue to its logical conclusion.
I recall that the week of the announcement was the week in which the problems at Aberdeen came to a head and reached the national headlines. The Secretary of State knows that I wrote to him saying that the situation had reached such a pass that it was clear that if something did not happen quickly Aberdeen could lose for good the fish market that had operated in the city for 800 years. That was not an empty threat ; it was clearly serious with devastating potential consequences for the whole economy of the city of Aberdeen. I wrote to the Secretary of State on the Monday. On Wednesday his Parliamentary Private Secretary asked me for a copy of the letter and the press release that had gone with it, and on Thursday the statement was made. I noticed that the Secretary of State was ready with a quotation from me to try to embarrass my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) who basically welcomed the statement.
What I am saying is that things were happening, none of which by themselves could explain why the Government changed their mind and moved so quickly, although it is possible that the fact that those things accumulated was the determining factor.
The problem is that the differential between scheme and non-scheme ports has definitely-- [Interruption.]
It could easily be observed that investment and business was being diverted to scheme ports. Just to make it absolutely clear that I am not speaking for the general manager of the Aberden harbour board, I should say that on a previous occasion he tried to ensure that the development of Peterhead harbour was blocked. That was something that I opposed and resisted because I believed that Aberdeen harbour should not be allowed to prevent the development of its neighbour, which could benefit the whole of the regional economy. Indeed, I supported the Peterhead Harbours (South Bay Developments) Order Confirmation Bill 1986.
If Aberdeen fish market had closed, that would have caused considerable problems for the entire north-east fishing economy because Peterhead was congested and would not have been able to accommodate the whole of the Aberdeen fleet.
Mr. Robert Hughes : I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to give the impression that the problems in Aberdeen fish market in recent weeks have anything whatsoever to do with the dock work scheme. The problems arose because the fish landing company went bankrupt-- [Hon. Members :-- "Why?"]--The good, honest business people in the fishing industry were not prepared to pay any more money. Landings had dropped because of EEC quotas. The hon. Gentleman must not mix up the two issues.
Mr. Bruce : The hon. Gentleman must know that Aberdeen fish market's problems, which reached a peak in the past few weeks, date back several years. The circumstances that caused the development of Peterhead in the first place were the existence of the scheme and the restrictive practices operating in Aberdeen, which made the inshore fleet simply give up in disgust and move to a port where they were left with freedom to operate in a sensible and commercial way. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny that, when the boats arrived on a congested day and there were not enough porters to unload them, after negotiation the crews were allowed to unload the boats, but they had to pay for the dock porters who were unloading other boats and, therefore, were paid twice. In such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that boats choose to go to Peterhead where they are allowed to unload without having to pay for the privilege of so doing.
Those anomalies have existed. There is a restrictive practice. In the long run, particularly when relatively small numbers of people are involved in terms of employment, the Labour party should look to the wider interests of people working in a port and see whether defending one group ultimately undermines the job prospects of a larger number.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Bruce : I am being got at from two sides. The debate has been going on for a considerable time. Many hon. Members have had a chance to speak. I am the only representative of my party who is present, and I should be allowed to speak in the debate. It will help the House to develop the argument.
The argument in favour of abolishing the scheme is strong and justified, but it does not explain why things have changed and moved so quickly.
Mr. Ian Bruce : In Weymouth, a registered dock port in my constituency, the fishermen have expanded their operations simply because, by tradition, they have not had to use registered dock workers. When the scheme was introduced for other types of cargoes in Weymouth, there were 130 dockers. When I was elected to represent the constituency, there were 24. We now have nine. Surely that shows that, if only we did not have such restrictions, we would see an expansion of employment such as that which occurred in the fishing industry in Weymouth. Jobs for life are clearly not correct.
Mr. Malcolm Bruce : The hon. Gentleman's point reinforces my own. Allowing every port to operate on a free and equal basis is ultimately in the best interests of all those who use and are involved in our ports. I am concerned to try to ensure that that is done quickly and reasonably and to try to probe the reason why the Government did not produce their arguments until very recently, and did so in such a hurry.
It is interesting that, in a sense, being called late in the debate has given me the opportunity to watch the way in which the confrontation has developed. I was possibly privileged not to be on the Committee. To some extent, the hon. Members who were on the Committee have continued the debate. That tends to happen in the final stages of a Bill. It has become apparent that it is a rather old-fashioned confrontational issue in which the two main parties line up in their traditional ways to defend the relevant vested interests. Those who believe that Britain is about to revert to a two-party system in which we operate by confrontation between two power blocs would do well to examine the debate. In the past few years, people have forgotten how destructive that confrontation is.
Mr. Bruce : I do not speak for my colleague in this context. However, my views on the issue are well known and were published before the Government made a statement of intention to publish the Bill. My colleagues and I have indicated support for the Bill, while supporting some attempts to amend it. That is perfectly reasonable, and I am explaining why it is important that people should carefully examine this litmus paper-type issue.
We do not want two-party confrontation re-established in this country. I question the Government rather than speculate. It has been said that there is likely to be a strike, yet both sides are saying that they do not wish a strike to occur and that they will not be responsible for one.
A strike in British ports over this issue would be an extremely unwise and foolish act. It would damage Britain's economic interest and influence abroad. It would be a strike that could not be won and one which--I believe that in its heart of hearts the Labour party knows this--would completely ruin the Labour party's attempts over the past two weeks to suggest that it has effectively been repackaged. It would remind the British people that it is a party that is the creature of the trade union movement and that, ultimately, when the trade unions get into a confrontation, the Labour party will always back them and give way. That is why the Labour party has been out of office for the past 10 years and why it will not find enough support to win office at the next general election.
Column 1062The Labour party should have the courage to say, "Look, we accept that the scheme was valid and that the reasons for the scheme were justified, but 40 years on, with the trends that have occurred, it is no longer a scheme that can be defended. There are wider interests of working people that should be protected and advanced. We in the Labour party have the courage to say that." I feel that the Labour party, at the very first test, has shown that the repackaged or remodelled Labour party has not the guts to do it.
Mr. Bruce : The contents of the Bill relate to the dock labour scheme which the Labour party is defending and is threatening to reintroduce. It is pertinent to say that I believe that the scheme should be phased out. The idea that it is likely to be introduced by any future Labour Government is deeply damaging, and the people of this country should take that point on board.
Dr. Godman : The hon. Gentleman will surely acknowledge that over the past 10 years the Scottish ports have suffered much more from the effects of the cross-subsidisation scheme, popularly known as the grid system, than they have from the workings of the National Dock Labour Board. Is it not the case that, whereas 10 years ago about 75 per cent. of manufactured goods produced for export by Scottish firms left Scottish scheme ports, the figure today is about 23 per cent.? Let us have a little fair-mindedness from the Liberal spokesman.
Mr. Bruce : That is a perfectly fair point, although it is rather wider than the scheme. I maintain that, first, Scotland in particular has suffered from the consequences of the grid scheme, the decline in manufacturing industry, which has weakened the Scottish economy generally, and the fact that our goods do not ship out direct from Scottish ports.
Secondly, our ports are expanding, but, regrettably, much of the investment is to increase the flow of imports into the country, because the supply side of the economy is not strong enough to ensure that we have enough exports to enable us to pay our way. That, of course, stands as a criticism of the Government's own policy, because we have created not a miracle at the end of 10 years, but a scenario whereby we find that what were once industrial sites are now retail stores, which sell goods that we do not make in this country, but which are sucked in through the port schemes.
Mr. Bruce : The point is that these goods are travelling through the scheme ports, and the Government's claim that the scheme will resolve the problems of the British ports and of British trade is not valid. Until we can ensure that the investment in the ports will ensure increased exports as well as increased imports, we shall not succeed in creating a strong and viable economy. I believe, therefore, that we need a much more fundamental strategy to use our ports more effectively to promote the supply
Column 1063side of our trade. The abolition of the scheme is a small and desirable step, but the Government would be wrong to assume that it will solve our trading problems.
Mr. Loyden : In Committee Conservative Members tried to disguise the real effects of the Bill and they have tried to do that again tonight. In Committee, Conservative Members relied, as they have relied tonight, on producing slogans such as bobbing, welting and ghosting which they probably learned at the seminar organised by the central policies study group and the Tory party central committee. I understand that that seminar was called "I hate the dockers." To establish at least some credibility about the dock scheme, they have been taught not to discuss the scheme, but to rely on the slogans which date back, as far as I am aware, to a period long before the national dock labour scheme came into being.
For some odd reason, the dockers have always been the Government's and the employers' aunt Sallies. That position has never changed. There has been no attempt by the Government to argue the case. In reality, there is no logic for what the Government are doing to the docks industry in the Bill.
The docks industry in the pre-war period was, as everyone has recognised, chaotic. It had inhuman practices which brought dock workers down to the level of animals. I am surprised that we are being led to believe tonight that the ruthless employers who existed before the war, and the hyper- exploitation on the docks, have disappeared and no employer would try to act like that today. Since the Government came to power in 1979, it has been their central task to weaken the power of the trade union movement and to wipe away--if they possibly could--every agreement and protective right that has been established in this and any other industry. The fact is that the Tory party and the employers do not change. They are committed to and are part of the system which requires them to maximise profit at the expense of the employees. To do that, they must challenge the rights and negotiated agreements which have been established over generations by dock workers and their forefathers. At one time, 70 per cent. of dock workers in east London were in receipt of poor law relief. Some 40 per cent. of dockers in Liverpool were in the same position. Those two major ports brought massive profit and wealth to the nation. The ports of London and Liverpool were responsible for creating the wealth for the port transport industry at the time. The result of that wealth creation was that dockers and their families lived in poverty.
The hon. Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) referred to the role of Ernie Bevin. Ernie Bevin had to go to the Shaw inquiry with examples of the meals that dock workers and their families were living on to prove that dockers and their families were living below the poverty level and that the quantity and quality of their food were endangering their health and that of their wives and children. The court accepted what he had to say. That is the background to the capitalist system and those such as the Tory party who operate it. A formidable trade union leader in the 1920s said that capitalism was like a tiger. He said that it was ruthless and pitiless to the weak, and where it sees weakness and
Column 1064disorganisation, it would exploit it to the maximum. The Government have exploited dock workers and their families for generations, year after year. It took the intervention of the state and, more importantly, the second world war, to change the minds, not of the employers, but of the Government, and to ensure that those practices ended as quickly as possible.
The fears at that time were that conditions in the docks were so bad that further trouble was expected during the war. It was to the dock workers' credit that they froze their agreements during that time to play their part during the war and keep the ports running, as indeed they did. Their reward from the Government is the abolition of the scheme that took them out of that position and into one, not of privilege, because the Conservative party is the party of privilege, but one in which they had won the rights for which they fought so hard over the generations. The dock industry became a human industry, and we saw the end of the hyper-exploitation by the employers in the port transport industry.
Conservative Members have clearly exposed their naked opposition to workers' rights. The Prime Minister has shown that in the past couple of weeks. When the statement was made about the possibility of harmonising social policy with Europe, she screamed out in her strident voice that any question of imposing workers' rights on this country would be opposed by her and the Government. That is--
Mr. Loyden : The Conservative party has gone to such lengths when introducing this Bill. No argument or logic has come from Conservative Members. They did not even speak very much in Committee. The longest speech made was that of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), which was three and a half minutes. They made no attempt to argue the case and there is no doubt in my mind that, whether they liked it or not, they were acting on the say-so of the employer. The reason why Ministers were not prepared to move away from their briefs in Committee was that they did not want to allow their minds to enter into the arguments being advanced by the Opposition. That showed that they had no real understanding of the industry and were acting on behalf of the employers. Knowing what employers are like, it was natural that they would not want the scheme in the first place. It was foisted on them by legislation and they have opposed it and tried to get rid of it ever since. It took this Government, with the employers' collaboration, to abolish the scheme.
The Conservatives have not taken one factor into account in the Bill : after abolition of the scheme there will be no scheme ports, but only non- scheme ports. Conservative Members will no longer be able to attempt to divide dock workers between scheme and non-scheme ports as they have done in the past. British ports will be united in their common industry.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and others have said, the non-scheme dock workers, who are also members of the Transport and General Workers Union, have, to a large extent, been sheltered by the scheme. Their conditions are there because the scheme is there. Once the scheme goes, you can bet
Column 1065your bottom dollar that the employers will move in as quickly as possible to begin attacking the conditions in the non -scheme ports. When there are no longer scheme and non-scheme ports, the dockers will have to unite to fight their employers and the Government if they are to retain their jobs and enjoy decent conditions. In a paradoxical way I almost welcome the opportunity that the Bill provides for that to happen. Conservative Members' speeches tonight and in Committee have been highlighted by their attempts to divide dock workers in scheme and non- scheme ports. The dock workers will readily see that if they are to establish a common framework they will have to rely on the strength of their trade union. That strength has prevailed for the past 47 years : the British trade union movement, which has survived even the attacks of Tory Governments, will be able to re-establish decent conditions in the ports under a future Labour Government who will understand how nonsensical it was for the present Government to introduce such legislation at such a time.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : The speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) represents the class-war attitudes of the 1920s and 1930s, and to a large extent sums up the attitudes of the real Labour party activists--hidden as they are by the new Kinnock realism and the soft red Labour rose.
The truth is that Labour still believes in restriction, regulation and control. It does not believe in deregulation or in liberalism. In his speech the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) described employers in the free market as cowboys. Labour Members cannot bear for the hand of the state to be taken away and for people to be able to run their businesses honestly, in accordance with the customer's wishes and needs. I was interested to note that the hon. Gentleman would not give way when he was talking about buses. Since deregulation in 1985 there are 400 more bus operators in the country, and I suspect that the Bill will provide new opportunities for dock workers.
I was also interested by what was said by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), who popped in, made his speech in order to get himself reselected--he is in danger of being deselected and replaced by the wife of the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman)--and then popped out again. He said that my great-grandfather would be turning in his grave. Yes, he may be ; but Tom Mann, when he led the 1889 dock strike 100 years ago, was fighting in entirely different conditions from those of today's dockers. The trouble with the Labour party is that it does not come up to date ; it fights the old battles. We are concerned with ensuring that the battles of 1992 and the single European market are won, and we must do that be getting rid of the scheme that is blighting so many of our inner cities.
Dr. Godman rose--
The scheme is full of defects. In Glasgow, seven registered plus two non- registered dock workers are in attendance for the bulk coal vessels, with no function whatever. The same is true in Middlesbrough, Cardiff, Newport and various other ports all over the country.
There are plenty of examples of the abuses--ghosting, bobbing and welting-- that have occurred under the dock labour scheme. We must lift the criminal law from employers so that no longer are 10 per cent. of dockers inactive-- plus another 10 or 20 per cent. if the ghosters and bobbers are added.
The annual report and accounts of the National Dock Labour Board for 1986 comments :
"Definition of dock work issues continued to be a problem and 12 cases were dealt with during 1986. There is growing concern over the increasing number of non-Scheme projects which have been and are being developed, often in close proximity to existing Scheme ports. This has been particularly noticeable on the Ouse and Trent rivers, and in the vicinity of the Wash. In some cases, the National Board took the unusual step of expressing its concern to the local authorities which were involved in the planning applications." The board is in the business of stopping competition and of restriction. It even attempts to use planning laws to prevent legitimate competition. That is another reason why this rotten, lousy scheme must be abolished.
Opposition Members commented on pay and said how poor are dock workers and that we would not work for the same low salaries. Some dockers receive larger salaries than Members of Parliament. There is no shortage of money in the docks. The average wage under the dock labour scheme is £347.57 per week. In Barry it is £588.37. That is hardly peanuts. At the last Labour party conference, the Leader of the Opposition said :
"Ron Todd made the point with deadly accuracy just a couple of months ago when he asked : What do you say to a docker who earns £400 per week, owns his home, a new car, a microwave and a video, as well as a small place near Marbella? You do not say,' said Ron, let me take you out of your misery, brother'."
That is the reality in respect of dockers' earnings under the scheme. Let us hear no more nonsense about their poverty. We heard also from those hon. Members sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union, who spoke about those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who serve as consultants--but without declaring that they receive payments from the Transport and General Workers Union.
Mr. Bidwell : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman maligns those of my hon. Friends who are sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union, as I am, and who do not receive any direct pay from their sponsor.
Mr. Bennett : I understand that the Transport and General Workers Union ballot of its members secured 70 per cent. support for strike action, although the union will not publish figures for the individual ports. The ballot paper is headed, "Trade Dispute with your Employer", which is palpably untrue. It is a trade dispute arising from a decision of this House, so it is an attempt to oppose the will of Parliament. The union is so scared that it was not prepared to describe the nature of the trade dispute in the ballot paper for its members to read. That is not surprising, because the TGWU's record is of changing its position every two or three days. The Bill is necessary because time and again the TGWU was asked to negotiate over the scheme but refused. On 16 April 1986, Mr. Nicholas Finney, director of the National Association of Port Employers, wrote to John Connolly,
Column 1067national secretary of the union's dock, waterways and fishing group, offering discussions. Mr. Connolly's reply of 21 April states : "In reply to your letter of 16 April 1986, I can advise you that, having in mind our position that the Dock Labour Scheme is to remain, I see no point in having joint discussions to provide for arrangements which might follow its removal."
The TGWU has consistently taken the attitude that its members will strike if any attempt is made to end the scheme.
During negotiations this year, the union issued a press statement on 18 April stating that
"we demand that the National Association of Port Employers should meet us urgently in order to establish national conditions that are no less favourable than the current provisions."
So it appears that it wants part of the scheme to be retained. In discussions between the unions and NAPE the following day, the association made a number of offers, including continuation of the pension fund, holiday entitlement, sick pay, basic working hours, and individual contracts. On that same day the TGWU stated :
"We are not seeking to substitute for the statutory scheme another scheme no less favourable."
Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are all listening with fascination to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), but when he filibustered on the guillotine motion he read out all the correspondence that he is quoting this evening. Is it in order to read out the same letters a second time on Third Reading?
Mr. Bennett : I realise that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I merely say that the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) is wrong. I did not read out during the debate on the guillotine motion the material that I have quoted this evening. If he reads Hansard, he will recognise that that is so.
On 24 April, the TGWU were demanding of the port employers that they should have a scheme that would amount to a national scheme. How can the port employers, the Government or anyone else believe what the TGWU says when in five days it changes its position three times? The strike record in the scheme ports has been about five or six times as bad as that of the rest of British industry over the past 20 years. That is another reason why the scheme has outlived its usefulness. It is time to free the docks and the inner-city areas so that they can prepare for 1992. That will ensure that Britain can make the most use of the economic prosperity that the Government are bringing it.
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : The debate has demonstrated the absurdity of the guillotine motion. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken with consummate ignorance of the problems of the Aberdeen fish market, which are extremely complex. It is ridiculous to suggest that the problems of a small part of a major port