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Dock Strike, Glasgow (Undischarged Cargo)

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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asked the Minister of Transport, if he is aware that a U.S. ship, ss. "Eucadia," which arrived in Glasgow on 18th March, carrying tractors and spare parts, was unable to unload this cargo owing to the dockers' strike; was diverted to Avonmouth, where the dockers also refused to unload it; returned to Glasgow and, as the strike was still continuing, finally sailed for New York with the tractors and spart parts still on board: what steps were taken to ensure that this badly-needed cargo was landed, and what action he is taking to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

I am informed by the Glasgow port authorities that this ship, carrying 8,225 tons of general cargo for Glasgow and 2,462 tons of steel for Liverpool, commenced discharge in Glasgow on 18th March. When the dockers' strike began on 24th March, there was still on board 1,306 tons of cargo for Glasgow, consisting of foodstuffs and 15 cases of machinery, including agricultural machinery. Authority had been given for the use of military labour to unload perishable and rationed foodstuffs, and I understand that in the circumstances at the time, it was considered that the use of military labour for unloading the machinery would be liable to add to the difficulty caused by the strike. Rather than delay the ship longer, the owners sailed the "Eucadia" for Liverpool on 26th April, but the Liverpool dockers refused to handle the cases of machinery. The "Eucadia," having completed discharge of the steel consigned to Liverpool, sailed to New York with the cases of machinery on board. The last part of the question envisages hypothetical circumstances upon which I am unable to comment.

Did the right hon. Gentleman's Department make any attempt to point out to the strikers that this cargo of argricultural machinery was, at least, as important as perishable foodstuffs?

My Department were in consultation with the Ministry of Labour and the War Office. These arrangements were made in co-operation with all the Departments concerned. As I have stated, this decision was taken because it was thought to be the best one in view of the gravity of the circumstances of the dispute.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us who made the decision that the unloading of agricultural machinery would be an aggravation of the dispute?

That decision was arrived at as a result of the experience and the knowledge of the circumstances of the port officials on the spot.

How does the right hon. Gentleman explain the disparity between his treatment of the dockers on the one hand, and of those wretched driving licence examiners on the other hand?

In so far as the Scottish Transport Workers Organisation is separate and distinct to Glasgow, it was an official strike.