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constitute a reason for introducing legislation that will affect thousands throughout the United Kingdom economy.

My constitutents--I hope that the Secretary of State will listen to me because I am speaking of real people--are in limbo, including some who are fish market porters. The employing company--the Aberdeen Fish Landing Company--went out of existence. Those who worked for it found that they had no employer. Some have accepted redundancy pay of £25, 000. Others believed--that was until the Minister for Public Transport spoke in Committee--that under the Bill they would receive £37,500. It appears from what the hon. Gentleman said in Committee that that sum will not be paid. I am talking of people whose lives are at stake. Let the House realise that £10,000 is a hell of a lot of money for these people, and that some of them will not work again. The Minister has not had the courtesy to reply to a letter that I wrote some time ago, and he failed to respond to my contribution to the guillotine motion. It seems that the promise given earlier today that I would receive a reply will not be honoured.

When we are dealing with major issues of this sort we should not be proceeding under a guillotine, when the rights of hon. Members to represent their constituents are denied them in a draconian manner. Conservative Members who pretend that they speak for the rights of individuals should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for what has happened.

I am extremely angry about the way in which the Bill has been handled. It was introduced with deceit, duplicity and dishonour. It was not mentioned in the Conservative party manifesto. It did not even warrant a mention in the Queen's Speech. We are not dealing with a minor industry or a minor change. A generation of practice is being changed. We are not dealing merely with the technicalities of ending a scheme, for we must be concerned with the future of the industry. If the National Association of Port Employers happens to be listening, or if it happens to read the report of my speech in Hansard , I repeat what I put to it earlier. If it does not handle properly the changes that are set out in the Bill, it will be landing itself in a great deal of industrial relations trouble for many generations to come.

There are those who believe that it will be possible to abandon the scheme along with national negotiations, training schemes and medical facilities. We do not even know what will happen to pensions. It is thought that this can be done port by port or on the basis of worst practices. Employers have said in Aberdeen and elsewhere, "We shall not return to casualisation. Instead, we shall have a core of permanent employees. As and when we need more men, we shall take them on. When we do not have work for them, we shall fire them." Is that not casualisation? Is that the way to create good industrial relations? The way that the Government are behaving is atrocious. There was a time when the Department of Employment was a Department of conciliation and good industrial relations practices. It sought to ensure that employers and employees worked together. There was a time when it tried to ensure that industrial relations were good enough to prevent industrial strife, not to provoke it. This Government are intent on provocation. It will do great damage to industry. We are told that 50,000 jobs will be created--that there will be a gigantic leap forward because the number of jobs

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will be doubled to 100,000. The hon. Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) said that even more than 100,000 jobs might be created. Whenever the fish marketing scheme has been discussed in Aberdeen we have put it to the employers that if they want to introduce changes they ought at least to offer the prospect of more employment, but they have absolutely refused to consider it. It is nonsense to believe that a scheme to generate 50,000 jobs will be successful when the Bill provides for massive redundancy payments. We do not create jobs by sacking people.

The Government and the port employers will rue the day. I am sad about that and about the damage that it will do to the economy. I am even sadder about the damage that it will do to individuals. The greatest sadness of all is that the Secretary of State for Employment has disgraced the position that he holds. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.

11.46 pm

Mr. Strang : During the seven weeks or so that have elapsed since the Government announced that they intended to abolish the dock labour scheme we have been waiting for an answer to the questions why the Government did not announce in the Queen's Speech their intention to abolish the scheme and why they have suddenly decided to introduce this Bill. No Labour Member relishes the prospect of a national dock strike.

It was misleading of the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) to suggest that the Transport and General Workers Union intends to vote against the abolition of the scheme. At the meeting with the employers on 18 April the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union made it clear that the union would not seek to oppose the legislation currently going through Parliament. He said :

"We will be opposing the Dock Work Bill using the normal Parliamentary channels."

He then went on to ask legitimate questions that we asked in Committee and which have been asked again today about what is to replace the scheme. For example, he asked :

"How will you ensure the job security of dock workers? What arrangements will there be for medical and welfare facilities and training?

Will the provisions of the Aldington-Jones Agreement, which is of course not a statutory provision but a collective agreement between the unions and employers, be affected?

What will be the role of the National Joint Council for the port transport industry?"

He received no answer to any of those questions. Neither the dockers nor the TGWU know what is in store for them. That is why we could be on the verge of a damaging trade dispute.

The union wants to negotiate a national collective agreement to replace the dock labour scheme. We reject many of the arguments that have been advanced tonight. We reject the idea that investment has not been taking place in the scheme ports. Example after example has been given of the millions of pounds that are being invested. We reject the idea that there is low productivity in the scheme ports. The evidence has been given to the House.

There has been a dramatic shift in Britain's trade. The enormous increase in the proportion of our trade with mainland Europe has increased the growth of trade in ports on the east coast of the country.

Mr. Devlin : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Mr. Strang : No, because I want the Minister to have time to reply.

We have received no answer to these points. It is therefore hard to resist the conclusion that the Government are going into this with open eyes. They are creating the conditions for a national dock strike.

We hope that when the matter is resolved in the courts, as it will be shortly, the Government will intervene and at the last minute will invite the employers and the unions to the Department of Employment, sit down with them and discuss what progress can be made in negotiating arrangements to replace the scheme.

There is no need for a strike. No one suggests that a strike will stop the passage of the legislation. The ball is in the Government's court. They can accept the consequences of their action and see a damaging strike that is not in the interests of the country, the port employers or of the dockers. That will happen if they go hell bent down the road that leads to confrontation. There is no need for that approach, but it has been endemic in everything that the Government have said since they started to enact the measure. We appeal to them even at this stage to think again. They should recognise that there has to be life after the passage of the legislation and that there should be constructive discussions to arrange for the future of the scheme ports.

11.50 pm

Mr. Cope : We have had another long debate on the Bill. It is drawing to a close but we have heard little new except the deep knowledge of the damage to their local ports from my hon. Friends the Members for Bridlington (Mr. Townend), for Thurrock (Mr. Janman), for Norfolk, North- West (Mr. Bellingham), for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) and others.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) asked a specific question about whether dockers in Aberdeen could get compensation in the particular circumstances of the fish dock in his constituency. Those who are registered dock workers when the scheme ends, and who become redundant, will get the full money to which they are entitled under the scheme--up to £35,000 for 15 years' service. If the employers cannot or do not pay them, the Government will stand behind the scheme to make sure that they are paid.

All the arguments from the Opposition today were familiar to those of us who were on the Standing Committee. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) worked up wonderful indignation about the guillotine, as only he is capable of doing. Every hon. Member who was on the Committee knows that there was an almost audible sigh of relief from all sides when the guillotine came into effect. What is more, we never needed to sit late thereafter.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West said earlier in our debates, and repeated today, that this was essentially a one-clause Bill. That is not true. There are important provisions in the later clauses about what will happen after the scheme. The Bill implements a single clear idea. We believe that there should no longer be a special class of registered dock workers, with unique statutory provisions governing their employment. All workers in the docks, including those who were registered dock workers, should have the same rights and obligations as other employees of their companies and, for that matter, employees in other

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industries. We not only think that that is right for the sake of the dock companies and their other non-registered employees but we believe that it is in the interests of scheme ports and the areas around them. There is clear evidence that the scheme's unique statutory restrictions have held back, and continue to hold back, the performance of scheme ports. There is no doubt that they are losing business and jobs to their competitors outside the scheme. That cannot be explained by the shift in the patterns of British trade.

Mr. Devlin : Does my right hon. Friend accept that a crucial problem of the dock labour scheme has been the way that it has put up charges to shippers and that the success of the east coast ports has been due to the fact that they charge £2 per tonne for unloading? They are small ports. Large carriers are going into places such as Rotterdam where they pay £2 per tonne for trans-shipment into small ships which bring the products in through small east coast ports, thus avoiding the large ports such as Teesside in my constituency and Liverpool where they would have to pay £6, £8 or even £17 per tonne for unloading.

Mr. Cope : My hon. Friend makes a shrewd point. It certainly cannot be said that the loss of business has anything to do with the shift of trade to the continent. The scheme ports on the south and east coasts managed a 26 per cent. increase in their trade since 1970, no doubt partly as a result of that shift in trade. The non-scheme ports on the south and east coasts increased their trade by 325 per cent. in the same period. It is also noticeable that Hull and Goole lost ground to the wharves on the Humber and the Trent and that the non-scheme ports on the west coast, Heysham and Holyhead, have grown, while Liverpool has continued to decline.

The scheme's restrictions have proved extremely damaging, but they have also become unnecessary to provide reasonable terms and conditions for dock workers in those ports. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, technology, not the scheme, has tranformed the port industry. In the 1940s, before technology was introduced, it was a labour-intensive, low- skilled industry, prone to widespread casual work which was an extremely unpleasant practice. Today it is a highly mechanised industry which is handling more tonnage with one sixth of the labour force.

Today's ports cannot operate without a well-trained permanent work force. Casual work has gone and the scheme is no longer required to prevent it. Those who have raised that spectre, along with other historical matters, do so only to frighten the dockers and other members of the unions. Ports outside the scheme demonstrate that the more modern and efficient they are, the more they rely on a modern, well-paid work force. That is a far better guarantee of good terms and conditions than the artificial, counter- productive controls of the scheme.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Oldham, West drew our attention to research by the centre for labour economics at the London School of Economics. I took the trouble to make inquiries and look it up. It showed why the scheme ports have lost ground. It revealed that the scheme's monopoly allowed the unions to resist the introduction of containerisation during the 1960s ; to

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secure pay increase of about 35 per cent. in 1967 in exchange for the acceptance of new technology ; and to refuse to accept lower manning levels, which were a natural consequence of new technology, until an alternative arrangement, heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, was introduced in 1972. That is why the scheme ports have lost half their container trade in little more than 20 years. That trade could have offset at least some of the job losses which the report rightly attributes to the technological revolution which the industry has undergone.

The scheme has defended indefensible working practices. It has produced the most extraordinary recruitment and disciplinary practices. It has led to inbuilt labour surpluses touching 18 per cent. in the past 10 years, which have damaged job creation and competitiveness immensely. All that has been underpinned by a statutory system of joint control which has functioned not to promote change in response to containerisation, for example, but first to block it and then to set an unacceptable price for it. The only way out is to abolish the scheme and to give the entire ports industry the same framework of employment law and free collective bargaining as everyone else.

The Opposition have not defended the details of the scheme. On the contrary, at various times they have offered to alter them, unlike the TGWU, which always refused to discuss change until the moment we said we would abolish the scheme.

But the Opposition have now said--or at least the hon. Member for Oldham, West has said--that they want to keep the scheme in place while the new controls are developed, with all the main restrictions of the present scheme, not only in the existing scheme ports but extended to all the other ports which have meanwhile flourished outside its grip. In particular, Labour Members also want to extend the statutory joint control which unions have used to block change in scheme ports, and they have even seen it as a model for other industries. That would be a recipe for disaster in British industry, and the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) correctly pointed out how old fashioned Labour party policy is--

It being Twelve o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- proceeded, pursuant to the order [8 May], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, That the Bill be now read the Third time :--

The House divided : Ayes 234, Noes 163.

Division No. 214] [12 midnight


Aitken, Jonathan

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Allason, Rupert

Amess, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkinson, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bellingham, Henry

Bendall, Vivian

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Benyon, W.

Bevan, David Gilroy

Biffen, Rt Hon John

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Body, Sir Richard

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick

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Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butcher, John

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Churchill, Mr

Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Colvin, Michael

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Emery, Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)

Fallon, Michael

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fishburn, John Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Fry, Peter

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, George

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodlad, Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gow, Ian

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, John

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Hayes, Jerry

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hind, Kenneth

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Janman, Tim

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Key, Robert

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Lang, Ian

Lawrence, Ivan

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Maclean, David

Maude, Hon Francis

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Moate, Roger

Monro, Sir Hector

Morris, M (N'hampton S)

Morrison, Sir Charles

Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)

Moss, Malcolm

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Neale, Gerrard

Nelson, Anthony

Neubert, Michael

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Norris, Steve

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Oppenheim, Phillip

Page, Richard

Paice, James

Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil

Patnick, Irvine

Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Pawsey, James

Porter, David (Waveney)

Powell, William (Corby)

Price, Sir David

Redwood, John

Renton, Tim

Rhodes James, Robert

Riddick, Graham

Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas

Ridsdale, Sir Julian

Roe, Mrs Marion

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Rost, Peter

Rumbold, Mrs Angela

Ryder, Richard

Sainsbury, Hon Tim

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Soames, Hon Nicholas

Speller, Tony

Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Squire, Robin

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

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