(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he will intervene in the dock strike on Mersey-side.
My officers have been in close touch with all concerned since the early stages of this dispute and have, within the past 24 hours, met representatives of both unions involved and of the employers.I understand that there is a mass meeting tomorrow, which I sincerely hope will, in the interests of everybody, decide upon an early resumption of work.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that over 10,300 men are involved, and that this morning 85 ships were totally idle and 11 undermanned in Birkenhead? Does not he agree that this largely inter-union dispute hurts the prestige of the Port of Liverpool, and that this may lead to a decline of the trade and of employment on Merseyside?
I do not disagree with what my hon. Friend has said. As I have said, not only have I been in touch, but I will continue to do so and will do anything that I think will be useful to solve this dispute.I think that everyone knows that these inter-union rivalries exist. My officers and the T.U.C. have been working closely together with the unions concerned for some months past to see whether we can succeed in finding an answer to this problem.
I recognise the special difficulties that arise from these inter-union disputes, but may I ask my right hon. Friend to lose no opportunity to point out to those concerned the serious damage being done to the trade on Merseyside and to the country by this stoppage, and also the serious hardship which is being inflicted on people who may not be directly employed in the docks but whose livelihood is drawn from things like perishable goods? Will my right hon. Friend pursue his efforts through his valuable conciliation machinery to try to bring this dispute to an end?
I assure my hon. Friend that I will do all those things.
Is the Minister aware that the trade union movement in Liverpool believes that non-unionists should not be employed in the docks, and that if that position can be cleared up—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The time has long passed for the employment of non-union labour in the docks. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree, because they can exploit non-unionists, but will the Minister see that whatever action can be taken to deal with this matter from the trade union point of view is taken?
It is not only a question of non-unionists. As the hon. Lady and probably most hon. Members know, there are these great differences of view between what are called the "Blue" union and the "White" union. I would rather not say more than this, that I am endeavouring to see whether we can find a sensible Solution to the problem.
In view of these recurring difficulties in the docks, not only in Liverpool but in London, can my right hon. Friend accelerate the Report of the Rochdale Committee of Inquiry with a view to overcoming these difficulties and disputes?
I believe that the greatest step forward that could be made not only in Liverpool, but in the docks in general, would be the speedy adoption of proposals to give dock workers greater security of employment, which have recently been put forward by Mr. Crichton and Mr. Cousins, the leaders of the two sides of the docks industry. I am doing everything that I can to assist towards this end.