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Mr. Gordon Oakes (Halton) : My hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) were simply saying that we should not throw out the baby with the bath water. That is all that the amendment is about. It is not a wrecking amendment or one that tries to continue the dock labour scheme by some other means. It merely asks

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that the Government, in the hiatus that they have created by rushing the Bill through the House, tell the House what will happen with regard to training and medical care.

I am proud to say that I am sponsored by the TGWU, of which I have been a member for some 40 years. I do not have any docks of any significance in my constituency. I have a few dock workers in Runcorn and I may have a few who work in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Garston ; but, like every other hon. Member, I live on an island and docks are important to us all because any difficulty with the docks or the dock workers can create a complete stranglehold on our economy.

We are going into 1992 and we are talking about training for dock workers. I was appalled to hear the Minister ask whether the burden of training should be on the employer or on the taxpayer. Other industries--for example, ICI--do not talk about the burden of training. Training is an important investment.

The hon. Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) talked about crane drivers and heavy equipment. He was right to say that no industry would let loose an unskilled hand on £500,000 worth of equipment, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about training for the ordinary, unskilled individual who needs to be trained just as much as the crane driver, because without it he could be involved in an accident or create infinite damage simply through ignorance. I envisage an increase in casualisation, which currently stands at only 6 per cent. because there is a dock labour scheme. Without it, casualisation would increase considerably. Unskilled people will be glad to have a job and will be willing to do anything. They will abandon the safety conditions and all the rules because they desperately want a job. They will not press for safety rules or for adequate training. That has already happened with the YTS, especially in the building industry. We are an island nation wholly dependent upon the docks.

The Minister's complacent attitude amazes me because we are approaching 1992 and a Europe in which Germany, France, Italy, Spain and even Greece passionately believe in the importance of proper training--not just for highly skilled workers but for all workers. In Germany, someone cannot be even a shop assistant until he has received proper training. That is right, because such people do a skilled job. A docker does a dangerous job. When I take my car on a ferry when I am travelling abroad, I am amazed by the skilled jobs being carried out by dock workers. They put quarts into pint pots. No unskilled person could do that.

I fear that the Bill will mean a dilution of training standards. The National Dock Labour Board currently sets training standards. The Minister said that it does not do enough, which may be true, but the Government should insist that it does more. If Felixstowe is so much better without the dock labour scheme, I hope that the Government, in the hiatus that they are creating, will insist that all other ports are brought up to Felixstowe's standard. Instead, I fear that the position in most ports will become considerably worse under this Bill, which has been rushed through the House, at the insistence of the port employers, almost by sleight of hand. The amendment simply asks the Government to tell us what they intend to do with training in the interim period. We do not want them to throw out the baby with the bath water.

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Clause 3 is being discussed with this proposed amendment to clause 2 under the guillotine procedure, although the connection between the two clauses is difficult to understand. Clause 3 is a gauleiter clause ; it provides that, if there is any disagreement between the Secretary of State and the members of the board, the Secretary of State can sack them and appoint another person to carry out their duties. If that person then does not carry out those duties to his satisfaction, he can also be sacked. Why appoint that other person? Why does not the Secretary of State say that he will do the job, in accordance with his wishes and diktats? It is a gauleiter clause, because any person appointed under it will have to do precisely what the Secretary of State says or be sacked.

This country will be greatly affected in 1992 by its complete lack of interest in training and the attitude that training is a burden. Training is not a burden ; it is an investment, and all good industries regard it as such. It chills me to hear the Minister refer to training as a burden, whether on the taxpayer or industry.

Mr. Nicholls : I said that, if the National Dock Labour Board imposed a levy during a transitional period it would be a burden. That is one reason why we think our proposed scheme is right. The money spent by an employer on training is very much an investment, which is why I cited the example of Felixstowe. That might be a semantic point, but it is crucial. I said that a levy would be a burden, not that investment in training would be a burden.

Mr. Oakes : The House needs to know exactly what will happen during the transitional period. We do not know what will happen and the Minister will not tell us.

7.15 pm

Dr. Godman : A system of levy is not unknown to other maritime industries--for example, every stone of fish landed at a British port by a United Kingdom registered fishing vessel is subject to levy. That levy is used towards the costs of running the industry and the costs of training fishermen.

Mr. Oakes : I know nothing about the fishing industry, but I accept what my hon. Friend has said. Indeed, it seems an eminently sensible thing to do. It is unfortunate that many industries do not invest in training. Because other European countries invest in training, they will be in a better position than Britain in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Loyden : I am puzzled by the Minister's remark about a levy being a burden. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware, even if the Minister is not, that the levy pays for training. Therefore, it follows that if the levy is a burden, so is training.

Mr. Oakes : My hon. Friend has hit on a crucial point. The Minister appears to think that spending money on training is wrong, yet the rest of Europe thinks it right. Europe is right and Britain is wrong. The Minister may say that many of our major industries show capitalism at work, but it is good sense to invest money to obtain the best safety record and the best efficiency from the work force. Even a kid of 17 or 18 should be trained, for his own safety, for that of his workmates and for the efficiency of the industry in which he works. The Bill creates a hiatus. The Government do not know what will happen about training.

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This is not a wrecking amendment. It is a sensible amendment. I ask the Minister, please, at least to consider it so that in another place the idea of providing proper training in the docks industry can be invesigated further by means of a Government amendment.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) : I listened carefully to what the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) said about training but I do not know whether he listened to the Minister when he referred to training and prayed in aid the port of Felixstowe, where large sums are being spent on training. The right hon. Gentleman almost seemed to imply that the only ports that do any training are scheme ports, and that the non-scheme ports do no training whatsoever. That is not the case. The Minister said that Felixstowe spends a great deal of money on training.

The right hon. Gentleman asked us to consider what would happen in a port that recruited large numbers of so-called unskilled persons.

Mr. Tony Banks : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jack : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop this point because it is crucial to the argument of the right hon. Member for Halton.

The right hon. Gentleman told us to beware of those ports that might recruit unskilled labour. However, I pray in aid an article in the Financial Times of 28 March by Jimmy Burns. It is headed : "Dockers fear tide turning against closed shop."

I read the article with interest. It refers to Felixstowe, where the Transport and General Workers Union has a single union agreement. I shall say a word or two later about the training role of trade unions. The article says that Felixstowe's recruitment

"is predominantly local, among men with no experience in dock work."

Felixstowe was the first port in the United Kingdom to handle more than 1 million TEUs, which are 20ft equivalent container units, in a single year. That port has built its success on the use of unskilled labour which had no previous experience of dock work.

I have visited Felixstowe and seen the port in action. It is a quite remarkable place to visit. Its rate of expansion is very rapid. When I visited Felixstowe, the port was expanding so rapidly that, as soon as the tarmac was laid, containers were put on to it. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that the growth of Felixstowe had led to an unacceptably high level of accidents or that all the progress there had been achieved without any form of training.

Mr. Oakes rose --

Mr. Jack : Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Mr. Oakes : Yes. I am not attacking the port of Felixstowe. All I am asking the Government is, if the training at the port of Felixstowe is so good, why create a hiatus, which the Bill does in the Government's rush to get it through? Why do they not accept the amendment and bring every port up to the standard at Felixstowe?

Mr. Jack : I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has clarified his position and said that the training procedures at Felixstowe are excellent. I do not think that under the new arrangements the port employers will say, "Now that we are non-scheme ports, we shall stop providing any training until some future date." It does not add up ; it is

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impractical. Felixstowe shows how effective it is to devise training that suits local needs. Felixstowe is a general cargo and container port. Smaller vessels also call at Felixstowe, for which a specific type of training is required. Felixstowe has got round that problem.

I am now prepared to give way to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).

Mr. Tony Banks : I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. Will he go a little further than Felixstowe and say what standard of training is provided in some of the other non-scheme ports? We keep hearing about Felixstowe, but what about some of the others?

Mr. Jack : I have every reason to believe that the other non-scheme ports also provide a high level of training. Not too long ago I visited the port of Dover. I asked those who operate the ferries what new training requirements had been introduced after the Zeebrugge disaster. I was most impressed by the high levels of training and checking that had been introduced to counteract some of the previous discrepancies.

Mr. Banks : But it was a bit late.

Mr. Jack : The Opposition have not suggested that the levels of training that are available in the non-scheme ports are poor, that they do not meet the needs of those ports and that they engender bad practice. If the right hon. Gentleman wants the House to adopt the amendment, that is the kind of argument that I would have expected him to use, but he has not done so.

Training is not just about the mechanics of operating machines. Training is also about attitudes of mind. The amendment suggests that the scheme ports training scheme should be extended to the non-scheme ports, but it says nothing about the types of training that ought to be provided. The Opposition seem to believe that people are more concerned about which button to push, or which lever to pull, or which crane to operate and the correct safety procedures for doing so, but training involves far more than that. Training encompasses an attitude of mind.

The training at Felixstowe encompasses an attitude of mind and the ability to be flexible. The lack of demarcation practices at that port has helped to make it the success it is. Paragraph 1.6 of the White Paper says :

"Well-motivated and productive workers are a key element in the success of any business."

I see no reference to that aspect of training in the amendment. Paragraph 1.7 says that the dock labour scheme

"sustains attitudes and practices in dock work which run counter to the needs of an efficient and successful ports industry, strong enough to face growing competitive pressures."

If that is the result of the training that is provided in the scheme ports, I wonder how effective it would be in terms of the attitude of mind that it would export to the non-scheme ports. To command the respect of the House, the amendment ought to have fleshed out in more detail the kinds of training that would be appropriate to the new docks industry. All it suggests is that what we have now should be laid on top of what will be provided. It smacks of a typically Socialist solution.

The notion that the larger non-scheme ports could act as a training agency for the smaller ports surrounding

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them would be completely ruled out by the amendment. Liverpool could serve as a centre of excellence for training in other ports. The amendment, as drafted, does not enable us to discuss the training opportunities that might be possible under the new arrangements. The right hon. Member for Halton said that this is not a wrecking amendment, but I have a nasty suspicion at the back of my mind that if the House approved the amendment--which I shall certainly not support--there would be no guarantee about the timetable that the new body would follow. I foresee prolonged discussions, endless meetings, committees being set up and training courses reviewed and rejected while the reform of the ports industry, which we hanker after, waits in the wings. The amendment says that we should not press on with training until the new training body is in place, but the amendment provides no timetable for the establishment of that body. It is wrong to ask us to agree to a totally open-ended commitment.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East) : As my hon. Friend probably knows, I was born in Felixstowe and lived close to the docks for much of my life. Does he agree that Felixstowe has demonstrated that it does not need external help to provide trade? The second part of the amendment refers to the welfare of the work force. Does my hon. Friend agree that Felixstowe has shown clearly by the small number of industrial disputes and the tremendously high wages paid to the dockers that it can maintain a high level of welfare care for its employees, without any external influence? My hon. Friend may be aware that a substantial percentage of the workers at Felixstowe send their children to public schools. That may not be palatable to the Opposition Benches, but it shows the benefit of a prosperous port. 7.30 pm

Mr. Jack : I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. I agree with all that he said. He reflects on paragraph 2.16 of the White Paper, which points to the benefits of a good health and safety policy. Before I became a Member, I was in the produce pre-packing industry.

Mr. Tony Banks : The what?

Mr. Jack : Some hon. Members may have heard of apples and lettuces ; for the benefit of those who have not, we supplied supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetables.

One aspect for which I was responsible was dealing with the trade unions on training and safety. I had great respect for the contribution that the trade unions made to our safety policies which were born out of the needs of our business. Produce pre-packing is not an industry with an overall training board. We were happy to work within the parameters set by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. We produced safety and training statements and we worked with the trade unions. We drew on their knowledge to create the right package for our business.

That arrangement appears to be mirrored in the port of Felixstowe. If it can work well in that port, could it not work equally well in other ports? Surely Opposition Members can see an enhanced role for the trade unions that they represent. Trade unions have an important role to play and it will not be taken away from them. It has been suggested that, if we do not agree to the amendment, training will cease as soon as the Bill becomes law. I do not

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think that anyone who has tried to run a modern, efficient ports industry will cease training. I do not see some of the drawbacks to which Opposition Members have referred. I think that people realise the enormous benefits that result from training.

The amendment is too open-ended. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said, it says nothing about funding. It does not go into any detail about the welfare schemes that we might expect. Perhaps we should explore that in more detail. As to the medical aspects, the amendment ignores the exciting and interesting opportunities whereby local health authorities offer employers various forms of occupational medicine and assessment of difficulties associated with particular jobs. If a national scheme was imposed on the industry, local initiatives might well be lost to ports and to dockers. A nationally imposed superstructure is not always the best way to meet the local needs of the ports industry that we all hope to see when the Bill becomes an Act.

Mr. Robert Hughes : I shall be brief, because time is short. Much has been made of the fact that the Bill was produced suddenly and the way in which it is being bounced through the House. Undoubtedly it has been a long time in gestation. The decision to abolish the National Dock Labour Board must have been taken some time ago or the glossy White Paper and the Bill could not have been produced so quickly. It is clear that the Government were hypnotised by their obsession to do away with the dock labour scheme and that they did not think about what would happen after the scheme was abolished. That is particularly galling in relation to training and medical and welfare facilities. I am astonished at the suggestion that everything should be done locally. Government supporters suggest that there is no room for an overall scheme. The docks industry is diverse. The same type of work is not done in each port, whether scheme or non-scheme port, but there is a broad overall pattern and all ports require the same level of competence and the same welfare and medical facilities.

ICI is a progressive, national employer, as is Marks and Spencer. If such companies, with businesses all over the country, were told that they should not have an overall training scheme but that they should leave training to local managers in Aberdeen, Felixstowe or wherever, they would think that that was ridiculous. Those companies use their size and capacity to develop training schemes and welfare facilities to benefit all their employees. All we are suggesting in the amendment is that there should be a scheme that takes the best and makes it available all over the country.

I have never before heard Ministers pay such plaudits to a Labour Government. Every Conservative Member quoted the Health and Safety at Work etc. 1974 Act. Its significance was that it imposed conditions on every employer ; an employer does not have the right to opt out. The significant point about the date, 1974, is that it was a long time after the beginning of the industrial revolution. In 1974 it became necessary to compel employers to take proper account of health and safety at work. The problem is that the inspectorate has not been kept up to strength to make sure that the Act is enforced. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) asked a specific question of the Minister about something in his constituency. What did

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the Minister say? He told him that he should have raised the matter earlier. My hon. Friend did ; he has been raising it for some time. The Minister did not say, as I would have expected, "I am disappointed to hear that. Tell me straight away the name of the company, and where it operates, and I will ensure that my inspectors are there tomorrow. If it is not providing proper conditions, action will be taken against it under the Act." We did not hear that from the Minister. He just said that it was up to employers to do what they liked.

The Government do not want just to destroy the dock labour scheme ; they want to make sure that the industry is fragmented. Every time that we debate the issue, we hear tales about the new jobs that will be created. The jobs that have been lost disappeared not because of the scheme but because of changes in conditions. The Minister does not seem to understand that the catalyst that he is producing will lead to a deterioration in conditions in the industry. If the ports are to compete and to produce more jobs, what advantages will there be in individual ports having day-to-day negotiations with their employees? Will the ports decide to cut wages? Presumably the Government will say that that is not the intention of the scheme, although some of us suspect that it may be. The only room to cut costs will be in matters such as training, health, welfare and safety. In the scandal that will follow, I fear that conditions will be driven down and that training will go out of the window. The Government's ethos is that the market should decide. They have introduced all sorts of schemes such as enterprise zones and areas where planning considerations do not apply in order to attract jobs. The Government's attack on unemployment is not to create conditions and enthusiasm for investment, but to change the circumstances and drive down costs to ensure that the employees pay the price. The amendment is significant. I certainly hope that the Government will think again and realise the advantage of an overall training scheme where new employees can learn from good employees and good employees can be used to change unsatisfactory conditions. The amendment is evidently worth supporting. I shall vote for it ; I hope that the Government will change their mind and see some sense, even at this late stage.

Mr. Tony Banks : I shall speak briefly on amendments Nos. 1 and 2. I shall speak about amendment No. 2 first because my right hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) referred to clause 3 as the gauleiter clause. When we examined the Bill in Committee, we decided that it was the Al Capone clause because when it refers to dismissing the members of the board one at a time it means getting rid of them all at one go. We saw shades of the St. Valentine's day massacre as the Secretary of State, who obviously fitted Al Capone to a T, would wipe out everyone in one go. When we went down the gangway, we could see close similarities with many Chicago-type gangsters facing us on the Conservative Benches. One immediately recognised the Government Whip as Frank Nitty, the enforcer, and in view of the size of the Minister of State, Department of Employment, he is obviously Legs Diamond. Who else could the Minister for Public Transport be than Baby Face Nelson? That is the humorous side, but it is a serious matter.

It is quite clear that in the interim period, members of the board will be given instructions and offers that they

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can only refuse and then Al Capone--the Secretary of State--will move in and get rid of them all at once, no doubt consulting the list of the stooges and lickspittles in his Department to make sure that the nominee who replaces them is "one of ours", as that is the Prime Minister's intention.

Clause 3(4) states that the Secretary of State will decide "The terms of service and remuneration of any such person".

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing amendment No. 1 ; he is talking to amendment No. 2, which we have not yet reached.

Mr. Banks : I thought that we were to dismiss the amendments by 8 o'clock, so if I did not make my remarks now, I did not see where I could get them in, except perhaps on Third Reading. I listened carefully to what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not withdraw my remarks, although they appear to have been wholly out of order. This is a serious matter and appears to give inordinate power to the Secretary of State, which in Committee and in the House we find quite unacceptable.

I shall move on briefly to training. The Government are getting rid of the scheme, so it is up to the Government to prove beyond reasonable doubt that training will not suffer. The 1987 dock labour scheme report reveals the extent of training nationally. I said that the non-scheme ports needed the discipline of a national training scheme because, frankly, I feel that when the national scheme is abolished, not the best but the worst practices will emerge in the non-scheme ports.

My evidence is based on what is happening in industry throughout the country. Training standards and the amount of money that is spent on training in Britain are generally abysmal. The evidence is all there and the Minister is arguing against the facts. On behalf of those who work within scheme and non-scheme ports, we have an absolute right to ask what safeguards the Minister plans to introduce.

If we are wrong, no great damage will have been done, but if the Minister is wrong there will be enormous damage. That is why it is incumbent on the Minister to provide much firmer assurances than he has so far, because it is his responsibility. He is responsible for removing the national scheme, so he must say what will happen if he is wrong, and how he intends to avoid that.

7.45 pm

One reason why national training schemes are in order is that they make sure that the better employers--and there are many of them--do not find that the money they invest in training workers is acting as a subsidy to other employers who poach their employees. It becomes relatively easy for those other employers to say, "As we have saved on training, we can offer a little over the odds to attract the skilled workers that that employer has trained." That is why a national training scheme that exists for the scheme ports would be in the interests of the entire industry, especially the best employers. It would ensure that the practices of the best employers apply right across the board. As the Minister knows, if we had the opportunity, we should like a national scheme that also

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covered non-scheme ports. National training schemes seem to be the answer to the poor standards of training that exist in the ports and in British industry.

I refer the Minister to a recent MSC-NEDO report that concluded that British companies rarely consider training a main component of their corporate strategy and do not treat training as a boardroom issue. West German employers spend three times more than British firms on training. The Minister must realise that there is a correlation between the high levels of skill and training in competitive countries such as West Germany and their economic success which is far greater than we are currently enjoying. The Minister must realise that those comparisons exist in international comparable statistics and within the different practices between good and poor employers in Britain.

It is up to the Minister, since he is throwing something away, to tell us what he will do if it turns out that we are right and he is wrong. If we are wrong, no great damage will be caused, but if he is wrong, a great deal of damage will be inflicted on the ports industry.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : I shall be brief so that the Minister can reply to the debate.

Earlier, a Conservative Member expressed concern about the timetabling which the amendment would apply and was concerned that it might create delays, as it would take some time to negotiate the body referred to in the amendment. I am surprised that any Conservative Member should dare to mention timetabling as, apart from wartime, it is difficult to recall any Bill being rushed through the House of Commons with the haste that the Dock Work Bill has been rushed through in the past few weeks. That haste is demonstrated by the lack of consideration in the Bill and by the Government to the implications of abolishing the National Dock Labour Board without making adequate provision for alternative training arrangements. The hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) said that he was opposed to any national scheme. I assume that his opposition is based on the fact that national schemes set down minimum requirements from which employers cannot escape. He would much prefer local arrangements to be in place because they allow employers to get away with as much as they can without living up to the national standards which would be applied by a national training body.

Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that kind of criticism. We have been talking about some of the most effective, efficient and profitable ports in the United Kingdom, such as Felixstowe, that have done extremely well by generating their own training programmes. They are not trying to get away with anything. Training has been an integral part of their business.

Mr. McAllion : It seems that Conservative members rest their entire case on the example of Felixstowe. That is not the only port in Britain. Many other ports, and particularly small ones, will quickly get away from national minimum requirements.

Mr. David Davis rose--

Mr. McAllion : I will not give way again because I am anxious to give the Minister a few minutes in which to reply. The Government have imposed the guillotine. If, in

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addition, Conservative Members try to intervene, so giving us even less time in which to make the points that we must make, we shall be doubly penalised.

The hon. Member for Fylde said that training was an attitude of mind. He must accept that the trust placed in employers to deliver that training is also an attitude of mind. Unfortunately, we have experience of employers in many areas of the economy not delivering on training, health and safety and, as a result, making the lives of workers a misery. That is why we oppose the Bill and are trying to amend it so as to make it slightly more progressive and considerate of workers.

In his earlier remarks, the Minister claimed that he did not say that training was a burden ; or that, if he said it, he meant to refer only to the levy. I remind him that the Government have abolished industrial training boards and closed down skill centres and are selling them off for huge profits. That suggests that it is not only the levy that concerns them. Having abolished industrial training boards and closed down skill centres, we question their whole approach to national training requirements. That is why my hon. Friends and I are anxious to amend the Bill.

The Minister tried to paint a picture which would ease the consciences of those who would rather look the other way while the Government attacked the existing protection of workers in the docks industry. He said, for example, that dock work was too sophisticated for employers even to risk neglecting training or the health and safety conditions of their employees. That was so, he said, because money spent in those areas represented essential investment if we were to be successful in European markets after 1992.

I think the Minister was trying to say that the efficient utilisation of new methods--containerisation, ro-ro, new grain-handling procedures and so on--required employers, in their own self-interest, to protect their work forces. We must judge the validity of that argument as best we can. If employers are so concerned about training and health and safety in the ports, why should it be intolerable to expect them to contribute to a levy for a national body to secure acceptable arrangements for training and health and safety standards?

The Minister suggested that that would inhibit the acceptance by employers of their responsibilities in the matter. If this House had taken that attitude in the 19th century, we would not have had the factories legislation and we should still have 10-year-olds working an 18-hour day in the satanic mills. That would have been the case had we left it to employers and expected them to be responsible. It is the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that employers accept their responsibilities, and that is why the Bill should be amended in the way that we suggest.

The Minister then argued that there already existed general health and safety legislation and national training schemes which employers could use for their work forces. I do not know whether the Minister was referring to the youth training scheme or the employment training scheme, or both. If he had such schemes in mind, why should he consider them sufficient to meet the sophisticated requirements of the ports that, he said, were necessary at Felixstowe and elsewhere? I assure the hon. Gentleman that Felixstowe does not consider such national schemes to be sufficient. That is why, as we have been told time and again, Felixstowe has invested £570,000 in one year to implement its training requirements.

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In other words, if what exists is not good enough for Felixstowe, why should it be good enough for all the other ports in this country? What is the Minister doing to ensure that all those other ports meet the standards set by Felixstowe and that they invest in the training schemes that are required?

The Minister said at one stage that the Government wanted arrangements that were appropriate to a particular port and work force. That must mean that there will be different arrangements in different ports. In huge ports which make large investments, there may be adequate training schemes, but in smaller ports which have only small sums to invest in training and in health and safety standards, different standards will apply. That will mean that the lives of the men who work in those smaller ports could be at risk, all because this measure is being forced through Parliament in such haste that we are unable to give all the issues sufficient attention.

The Minister said that it was not in the interest of port employers to use unskilled labour, although we then heard from Conservative Members that that had been done in Felixstowe for many years. If what the Minister said is true, why is there still 6 per cent. casualism in non-registered ports? What about the position of Port Glasgow, where, we have been told, unemployed workers are being paid £2.50 an hour to work in the docks? We must have answers to those questions. Such developments have not spread more widely in the non-registered ports because of the existence of the national dock labour scheme, and the national agreements in the non- registered ports have been based on that scheme. In other words, take away the dock labour scheme and there can be an attack on the national agreements that the Transport and General Workers Union has negotiated in the other ports. The result will be differing conditions in the various ports throughout the country. Those working in small ports will find their lives at risk. That is what the Government have in mind, and that is why we must amend the Bill.

Mr. Nicholls : With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the few minutes available to me I will do my best to answer the more salient points that were made in the debate.

Although he will not thank me for saying so, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) summed up what the debate has been about and why the amendment cannot be accepted when he described in his opening remarks the transformation that there has been in training. He described his experience over the years, in the light of his time in the docks, and pointed out that there had been almost a revolution in the way in which the docks operate. He spoke of the skills that dockers now had and the equipment they were being called on to operate. He painted a picture of a modern industry in which it would be impossible for casualism to operate.

That theme has run through all the contributions that have been made by Opposition Members throughout the debate. It works on the supposition that one can turn one's face away from the developments that have taken place and say that the lessons of the 1920s, and perhaps even of the 1820s, show that if casualism and a lack of training existed before, the same could happen again today. The hon. Member for Garston knows better than most that that is not a sustainable attitude to take.

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In a sense, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) made the same mistake. He said that the scheme ports had in some way kept up standards in the non-scheme ports and that, in some way, if the scheme ports were swept away, standards would automatically sink. I appreciate the sincerity with which such a course may be advocated, but it is a manifest absurdity masquerading as a self-evident truth. A prosperous ports industry has grown up, not so much because of the changing patterns of technology, but because non-scheme ports have developed precisely because of the existence of scheme ports, often on the same estuaries and even on the same parts of the coast. For every scheme port one will find a non-scheme port which was once insignificant, if not virtually non-existent. The presence of the scheme ports has produced those ports, and they throw the scheme ports into a certain light. The idea that in some way a declining sector of the industry has been able by its own inadequacies to bring on the non-scheme ports--the idea that in some way the practice of non-scheme ports is maintaining standards--is a complete absurdity. While I appreciate the sincerity with which the argument is adduced, I could not accept it.

The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) said--this theme was echoed by several of his hon. Friends--that it was a question of throwing out the baby with the bath water. My hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), in an excellent speech, pointed out that that was a Socialist attitude to life. I accept that Labour Members have a number of crosses to bear, one of them being their addiction to Socialism, but is nonsense to assume that, if things were not laid down in some impossible, bureaucratic, 1950s-type collectivist framework, they would not work.

Although the right hon. Member for Halton spoke about the baby and the bath water, he should accept that the baby of which we are talking is a pattern of training in non-scheme ports which--I make no apology for repeating the point--in relation to just one port, Felixstowe, shows that more is being spent on training than in all the non-scheme ports put together. Therefore, the idea that all training will cease as soon as the Bill is passed is nonsense. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) helped me by remembering that I am a lawyer. He said that he wanted to be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt. For any judge summing up before a jury, that means not that one might think of fantastic reasons why something might be right or wrong but simply that one should be sure on the evidence that the decision one reaches is correct. Those are the words a judge would use in summing up before a jury. If the hon. Member for Newham, North-West looks at what really happens and at the pattern of training as well as the decline that there has been--

It being eight 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 amendment be made :--

The House divided : Ayes 175, Noes 225.

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Division No. 213] [8.00 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

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

Boateng, Paul

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, Ron (Blyth Valley)

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

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

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

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

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)

Illsley, Eric

Ingram, Adam

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Kennedy, Charles

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

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.

McKelvey, William

McLeish, Henry

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

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

Parry, Robert

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prescott, John

Primarolo, Dawn

Radice, Giles

Randall, Stuart

Redmond, Martin

Reid, Dr John

Richardson, Jo

Robertson, George

Rogers, Allan

Rooker, Jeff

Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Rowlands, Ted

Ruddock, Joan

Sedgemore, Brian

Shore, Rt Hon Peter

Skinner, Dennis

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