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Dock Strikes (Food Supplies)

Volume 414: debated on Monday 15 October 1945

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asked the Minister of Labour and National Service whether he will give the House the latest information about the situation at the docks, and whether he will give an assurance that all possible steps are being taken to ensure that necessary foodstuffs are unloaded.

Yes, Sir. Work on the Tees was resumed this morning and a small number of Port of London permanent men who had become involved have also returned to work. On the other hand the coal porters at Tilbury have ceased work, as well as the dockers in the Surrey Dock area and the tally clerks at the Royal Docks. Elsewhere there is no material change to report. It is estimated that the total number of men on strike is 39,208, made up as follows: 10,031 in London, 3,850 in Hull, 1,016 in Tyne and Wear, 996 at Leith, 275 at the Hartlepools, 940 at Grimsby and Immingham, 18,100 at Liverpool and Birkcnhead, and 4,000 in Glasgow. As has been reported in the Press, the National Docks Group Committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union have held a meeting to discuss the present stoppage. This fully representative body unanimously stated that there is no justification for prolonging the present stoppage by one single day, and urged the men to resume work at once. I trust that the men will pay full heed to the advice of their democratically elected committee and will go back to work at once. As regards the second part of the Question, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are taking all possible measures to prevent any hold up of necessary food supplies.

How many members of the military forces are engaged in landing supplies, and is it proposed to increase the number to make sure that all that ought to be brought in is brought in?

I cannot, without notice, give the number at present engaged, but I can assure the hon. Member that others are being brought in and that that process will continue to ensure necessary deliveries.

Is this stoppage likely to have much effect on the repatriation of men from the Far East and Middle East?

Without examining the consequences of the slow turn-round of ships it would be difficult to say anything about that at the moment. I would ask that whatever we may say at the moment may be guided by the hope of inducing the men to return to work and not to prolong the stoppage.

In view of the fact that the dockers have real grievances, would it not be desirable for the Minister to call a conference of employers, trade union officials and representatives of the dock areas, with a view to accelerating negotiations and getting the strike ended?

In view of the great number of applications which are reaching mo from unofficial bodies, I think it would be most unwise to let anything accrue to those who take unofficial action in this matter.

Can my right hon. Friend say what proportion of the men on strike are members of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and can he explain to the House why members of that union are not content to be represented by their officials?

That is entirely a matter of opinion on which I am not qualified to speak. In regard to the first part of the question, I think most of them are members of that union, but there are a few members of another union.

While agreeing with what the right hon. Gentleman has said may I ask him whether he is satisfied that the machinery of the Transport and General Workers Union, a union which again and again has been involved in disputes—