asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether, and in what terms, he has endorsed the short-term trade and manpower plan for 1979 presented to him by the Port of London Authority and unions last month.
On 31st July I informed the House that the Government were prepared to provide financial assistance up to £35 million in grants towards severance costs of registered dock workers and staff on condition that the PLA set in hand urgent measures, in co-operation with the trade unions, to secure the most rapid possible rundown of surplus manpower.—[Vol. 955, c. 169.] No grant assistance would be provided until the PLA had produced a detailed costed plan establishing specific targets of manpower reductions.On 24th October the PLA submitted a short-term trade and manpower target plan for 1979 which had been prepared, following discussions with the trade unions in the PLA/ Trades Unions Committee, providing for an agreed target manpower reduction figure of 1,489 in the period from 5th May 1978 to 30th June 1979. I understand that the trade union side of the joint committee is confident that the target figures will be attained. The PLA is still at work on a corporate plan covering the full range of issues involved which will be submitted as soon as possible.I have informed the PLA that the Government agree that the authority should proceed as rapidly as possible with securing the agreed target figure of 1,489 manpower reductions referred to in the short term plan, but hope that the authority will be able as soon as possible to identify and implement further reductions in manpower. The Government agree in principle to make grants available to cover the net cost of the voluntary severance of registered men in the Port of London and non-registered personnel in the PLA, from 5th May 1978.I have placed copies of the full text of my reply in the Library.