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Mr. Ernie Ross : I was a member of the Committee on the Bill. We have, no doubt, four or five hours ahead of us when we shall hear contributions from Conservative Members which will reflect their comments in Committee. The ministerial team has changed yet again because it was so weak, disjointed and hopeless that it has been necessary to draft in Ministers on an almost daily basis. They are incompetent and cannot handle their brief. The Chairman of the Committee had to lecture the Under- Secretary of State for Employment, the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) because he was not doing his job.

We should therefore not be surprised about what we have seen in this debate. This debate is a continuation of the double act that the Tories have been running throughout the Bill. The straight man leads off, then the clowns come on behind. The clown who has just spoken, the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) was a member of the Committee. He has been joined here by other clowns who have been on other Bills, while he clowned around on this Bill.

Another clown is the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who stands up and says, "I am a friend of the dockers and I am fighting for the dock industry." Last night, this clown was so concerned about the dockers that he moved the Third Reading of the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill formally and did not say another word. That is the extent of his concern about the docks and what has happened to them. It is just one more example of how the Conservatives have attempted to steamroller legislation on to the statute book.

The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) made a point that needs to be dealt with immediately. He said that, under new clause 1, dockers could take a bonus and then immediately take a post somewhere else. That is also true under the Government's proposals. Under the Bill, there is nothing to stop a registered docker taking redundancy and then taking employment as a docker down the road or even with his previous employer. Let me put that on the record. The only difference between our proposal and the

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Government's is that, because we have a little bit more experience of work than the clowns have, we understand some of the problems. The Under-Secretary of State for Employment should ensure that people are trained properly and that they have jobs to look forward to, rather than the dole queue. I am disappointed that he did not deal with some of the points I raised. He knows that the Select Committee on Employment has identified the over-50s as a special category, yet neither he, the Secretary of State for Employment nor the Minister of State dealt with those comments in Committee. I went through the Select Committee's comments in Committee and they are relevant to this debate. The Select Committee referred to life expectancy, the fact that an increasingly large part of the population is made up of the elderly and the nature of work. It also pointed out that there are people who discriminate against the elderly.

It is worth remembering who is discriminating against who, because the fat cats sitting on the Government Front Bench all earn more in a single year than they are proposing to pay to the dockers whom they will make redundant and send to the labour exchanges--

Mr. Michael Brown rose --

Mr. Ross : Sit down.

Each of those Ministers earns more in a single year than they are proposing to give to redundant dockers, but there is no way in which we shall allow them to get away with that without at least attempting to increase the sum- -

Mr. Bermingham rose --

Mr. Ross : I should like to give way to my hon. Friend but there is not much time and we have a guillotine. I hope that we can have one more comment from the Minister in answer to some of the points that were not answered in Committee, because I should like to hear some answers tonight.

We are expecting the Government to say a little more. Once they have given the generous handout of £35,000, what will happen to the dockers? Does it mean that they will be on the dole for the rest of their lives, because if it does, I advise the Government that £35,000 does not go very far and that we shall not let them get away with it. We want more information.

The hon. Member for Daventry also said that there was unfairness. He is right--there is an unfairness. If my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) had caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he would have identified the unfairness that exists right now. That lot on the Conservative Benches have been conspiring with dock employers to ensure that people such as the Aberdeen fish lumpers are leaving employment now under much worse conditions than those that will apply when the Bill receives Royal Assent. There is a conspiracy among Conservative Members and a lack of concern about those people who were convinced that they should take redundancy. Because of the difference made by one day, two people who work together in Aberdeen and who have applied for redundancy will get different terms. Any worker who did not know about the Government's plans and who applied for redundancy under the old terms will not be allowed to withdraw his application so that he can take advantage of the new scheme.

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The peroration of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was about the only peroration that we have heard from his party because his hon. Friends were absolutely silent throughout the Committee stage. He reminded me, and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North, of a fish person gutting a cod because of the way in which he said, "Let's be quick and clean and get rid of it." We are talking about human beings. We do not want to hear about a quick, clean end to the scheme, because we know that there will be problems long after its abolition. The hon. Member for Gordon got his just and appropriate reward in the treatment given to him by the hon. Member for Pembroke, who was the resident clown on the Committee. If there was one thing that differentiated the Opposition and the Government sides of the Committee, it was that at least we tried. It may very well be that the wording of this new clause is not correct, but if it is not, would it not have made much more sense for the Minister to say, "I accept the intention of the new clause and if it is withdrawn, I will introduce an amendment or a new clause in another place to improve on the redundancy terms that are on offer at present so that some of the problems that the Opposition have identified can be dealt with"?

Unless we hear tonight that the Government will do something to ensure that the so-called generous payment that the Government are giving to the 46.7- year-old dockers who will leave the industry and who may never work again is supplemented by some training programme or some other provision to ensure that the redundancy payment is not all that they will receive from this Government or from any other Government for the rest of their lives, we shall pursue the new clause to a vote. It is clear that the Government do not care. We have a responsibility to speak for the dockers who will be made redundant.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) clearly identified, because of the intentions of those people who are at present constrained by the dock labour scheme, 2,000 dockers are now facing the sack. As soon as the Bill is given the Royal Assent, those 2,000 people will be left to the labour exchanges. We shall fight for as long and as hard as we possibly can, both here and in the other place, to ensure that those people get the maximum reward for the effort that they have put in to make our docks so successful.

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley) : The speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) was the most appalling insult to his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I have heard that on the Committee the hon. Member for Newham, North-West was one of the more entertaining Labour Members. To say that my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) is funnier or more peculiar than the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is an insult. I hope that those Labour Members will sort themselves out, because that sort of disagreement brings the Labour party into disrepute.

The hon. Member for Dundee, West also referred to the fact that 650 registered dockers per year over the next three years might take severance and be made redundant. Since 1983--over the past five or six years, which is the sort of period that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) would use--840 registered dockers per year have been taking severance. Therefore, our proposals will mean

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a reduction in the numbers leaving the industry--or rather, leaving the registered docks work side of the industry.

Mr. Robert Hughes rose--

Mr. Bottomley : When I was a Minister at the Department of Employment, I remember the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) personally trying to resolve some of the disputes that were then threatening the future of Aberdeen. I pay tribute to him for that before giving way to him.

Mr. Hughes : After that, I am sorry to have to ask this question, but I must still put it to the Minister. What is the position of the fish market porters in Aberdeen who have no employer at the moment because, as was pointed out in Committee, the fish landing company went out of existence on 24 April? Are those people who are still working on a temporary licence with Aberdeen harbour board entitled to £35,000, or are they being pegged back to £25,000?

Mr. Bottomley : As I have been away from this subject for some time, I shall make sure that the hon. Gentleman gets an answer to his question, although I do not think that it will affect his vote on the new clause. I shall see whether an answer can be given to him during our subsequent debates this evening, because he has raised a serious point that deserves an answer.

We are considering a ghost new clause and I suspect that, by the time we come to vote on it, no one will actually vote for it, with the possible exceptions of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) and his hon. Friends the Members for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) and for Dundee, West. Indeed, the hon. Member for Oldham, West, who moved the new clause, acknowledged that it does not do what he had hoped it would do--

Mr. Meacher : I did not say that.

Mr. Bottomley : The hon. Member for Oldham, West also acknowledged that by tabling amendment No. 3, which would get rid of existing clause 5, many of the protections that British dock workers would want to have would be swept away. I ask Opposition Members to consider what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment, who dealt both with the serious points and with the new clause that was tabled semi-seriously by the hon. Member for Oldham, West.

The proposal in the new clause is that a registered dock worker with 20 years' service, who leaves the industry for any reason whatsoever, should receive £66,000. We are dealing with a suggestion that a registered dock worker who leaves the industry for any reason after 30 years' service should get £96,000 and a registered dock worker with 40 years' service should get £126,000. That is the consequence of the simple arithmetic of the new clause.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke pointed out, when one considers the £5,000 that was available when the Labour party was last in government and the £25,000 and the other figures on offer now, one must realise that there has been a significant increase. Mr. Bermingham rose --

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Mr. Bottomley : It would probably be better if I did not give way to the hon. Gentleman, although I acknowledge that he has been present for most of the debate. I am not sure that there is time for me to give way to him, but if I run out of things to say before six o'clock--in two minutes' time--perhaps I shall give way to him. My hon. Friends the Members for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) and for Pembroke have treated the debate seriously. We want to see thriving ports that will compete equally. The proposals in clause 5 are that the ports should not compete equally for three years between the time of Royal Assent and the date on which the transitional arrangements come to an end, because the scheme ports will still have taxpayer contributions towards redundancies. That is the kind of competitive advantage that will die away at the end of the three years. It is right that there should be transitional arrangements in moving from the dock labour scheme to the post -dock labour scheme position. That is the argument for looking at the distortion that we now face.

Some hon. Members asked whether those in the docks industry would be treated worse than those in the mining industry. Let me give some examples. A mineworker aged 27 with 11 years' service will receive a payment of £6,648. A docker in those circumstances--although, of course, there are probably no dockers that young with that length of service--would receive a payment of £27,000 if made redundant in the first 18 months after Royal Assent, or £16,000 if made redundant in the second 18- month period. Further, a miner aged 32 with 16 years' service will receive £17,468 ; a similar docker with similar service would receive the maximum payments of £35,000 or £20,000. It is important that we remember that the comparisons suggest that the transitional redundancy arrangements following Royal Assent are reasonably fair.

I recognise the point that was made by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who made a reasonably constructed speech although he did not make the case for the severely increased sums which are the aim of the new clause so inadequately expressed by the Labour party. At least there is agreement throughout the House, between the Labour party, the Social and Liberal Democratic party and the Conservative party, about the way in which the new clause was drafted. Its arithmetic goes far, too far, and when taken with amendment No. 3, its consequences are totally wrong. The House knows that the new clause is unacceptable. On some points, it acts to the disadvantage of former registered dock workers. No other worker is entitled to such generous terms. The clause has no logic, merit or friends. I urge the House to reject it.

Mr. Bermingham : The Minister would not answer a simple question. If one is 55, has 10 years working life left and is getting a maximum of £35,000--

It being Six o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- proceeded, pursuant to the Order [8 May] and the Resolution this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 184 Noes 258.

Division No. 212] [6 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

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Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Cartwright, John

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Coleman, Donald

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Duffy, A. E. P.

Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth

Eadie, Alexander

Eastham, Ken

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Faulds, Andrew

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foot, Rt Hon Michael

Foster, Derek

Fraser, John

Galloway, George

Garrett, John (Norwich South)

George, Bruce

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Gould, Bryan

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Healey, Rt Hon Denis

Heffer, Eric S.

Henderson, Doug

Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)

Home Robertson, John

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)

Howells, Geraint

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Illsley, Eric

Ingram, Adam

Janner, Greville

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)

Kennedy, Charles

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

Kirkwood, Archy

Lamond, James

Leadbitter, Ted

Leighton, Ron

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Terry

Litherland, Robert

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

Loyden, Eddie

McAllion, John

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

Macdonald, Calum A.

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

McKelvey, William

McLeish, Henry

Maclennan, Robert

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Marek, Dr John

Marshall, David (Shettleston)

Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)

Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Martlew, Eric

Meacher, Michael

Meale, Alan

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)

Morgan, Rhodri

Morley, Elliott

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Mowlam, Marjorie

Mullin, Chris

Murphy, Paul

Nellist, Dave

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William

O'Neill, Martin

Orme, Rt Hon Stanley

Owen, Rt Hon Dr David

Parry, Robert

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prescott, John

Primarolo, Dawn

Radice, Giles

Randall, Stuart

Redmond, Martin

Richardson, Jo

Roberts, Allan (Bootle)

Robertson, George

Rogers, Allan

Rooker, Jeff

Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Rowlands, Ted

Ruddock, Joan

Sedgemore, Brian

Shore, Rt Hon Peter

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)

Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)

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