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Temporary Procedure For Resolving Disputes As To Terms Of Employment

Volume 114: debated on Thursday 9 April 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

8.45 pm

I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 6, line 15, after 'employment' insert 'or contract of services'.

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 24, in page 6, line 22, after 'employment' insert

'or the kinds of contracts of services'.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that all the continuing pilots will be treated in a similar fashion — that is, both those who accept contracts of employment under section 4(2) and those who opt for alternative methods of employment.

The Government see the clause as a means whereby they are fulfilling the several undertakings given to pilots. The clause was written into the Bill as an amendment on Report in another place. In moving the Amendment, the Minister stated:
"I believe that with the acceptance of these amendments there can no longer be any doubt in anyone's mind that the Government are fulfilling the undertakings we have given the pilots who continue in the profession, no less than those who retire, that they will receive fair and equitable treatment." —[Official Report, House of Lords, 12 February 1987; Vol. 484, c. 813.]
As worded, this clause will apply only to those pilots who accept contracts of employment and obviously, if not amended in the manner suggested, the Government would not be fulfilling their undertaking—as exemplified by the amendment to clause 4 —to a large number, perhaps the majority, of the continuing pilots.

This is in line with amendments previously introduced into the Bill by the Government — for example, by amending clause 4(1) to include
"(whether under a contract of employment or a contract for services)."
That would make self-employment an option which could be considered. Without it, self-employment is not a starter. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment.

We have introduced into the Bill, by way of an amendment in the House of Lords, a temporary arbitration procedure with regard to contracts of employment between the competent harbour authorities and the pilots.

The suggestion in these amendments is that those arbitration procedures should also be applied to a case where pilots are not directly employed by the competent harbour authority. We believe that to be unnecessary, since any such arrangements can be introduced only if there is an agreement between the parties.

There is a further point. Contracts for services may, in some cases, be placed as a result of competitive tenders put out to two or more possible contractors. Clearly, arbitration would have no place in determining what the terms of a contract resulting from competitive tendering should be.

I must ask my hon. Friend to withdraw this amendment or urge the Committee to resist it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment No. 23 in page 6, line 20, leave out second 'the' and insert 'an'.

This is a technical amendment to make it clear that the chairman and or members of the arbitration panel may he different in different cases of dispute.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 6, line 26, leave out from first 'of to 'by' in line 27 and insert

'three members, one appointed by the Secretary of State, one'.

With this it will be convenient to take the following: Amendment No. 26, in page 6, line 26, leave out from first 'of' to `by' in line 27 and insert

'three members, one, the Chairman, appointed by the Secretary of State, one'.

Government amendments Nos. 27 and 28.

Amendment No. 26, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton) makes it clear that the bodies representing the ports and the pilots are each to appoint one member of the arbitration panel. It also provides that the member of the panel appointed by the Secretary of State should be as chairman. I am happy to accept that amendment, and therefore not to press amendments Nos. 25 and 28. However, I would wish to move amendment No. 27, which complements my hon. Friend's amendment and which I will ask the Committee to accept.

I am afraid that there are difficulties here. Certainly, the British Ports Association, Associated British Ports and the United Kingdom Pilots Association have all raised serious queries about the arbitration panel. We understand that there will be a chairman appointed by the Secretary of State who will be completely independent —that goes without saying. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will reaffirm that when he sums up. Also, the chairman would have to be of a legal persuasion. He would have to have some experience in arbitration matters and would perhaps have served a considerable time on some industrial panel. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to confirm those points.

One of the queries from the United Kingdom Pilots Association is, how will the operating costs of the panel be funded? I am sure that there is a fairly simple explanation but the association does not seem to understand that side of the matter yet. When is the arbitration panel scheduled to be in operation? Is there some time scale that my hon. Friend the Minister could give us?

Another difficulty has arisen. The British Ports Association is not necessarily representative of all the employers in the ports.

I am receiving confirmation of that fact from the Opposition, so it must be right. Associated British Ports is not a member of the British Ports Association. There are rumours — no doubt the Department of Transport will know whether they are true — that other ports are leaving the British Ports Association and that there may be difficulties in the future in getting a representative port view on the arbitration panel.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the chairman of the panel in his view being someone from the legal profession — perhaps a QC, as is often the case with arbitration panels. Would he expect one of the other two members to be a practising pilot?

I think that the Minister will agree with me that that would be the right way to proceed. The difficulty is that the arbitration panel would at the same time have to have a fair voice from the port employers; it would not necessarily have to be weighed completely towards the pilotage employees.

Associated British Ports is suggesting that the two other members of the panel—the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) mentioned the pilot—can either be regarded as acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, in which case they should have no connection with either of the parties subject to the arbitration, or they should be direct representatives chosen by the parties concerned. I know that Associated British Ports will have no argument about that. Therefore, that confirms what I said to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow.

The Bill currently does not provide for either of those alternatives. The pilots will be able to choose a direct representative, which is fair and equitable, but the port industry nominees envisage having no direct connection with the port subject to arbitration. Therefore, the essential balance of the three-man panel will be lacking. The idea is being floated that if the essential balance is lacking it may mean that the port representative might be employed by a competitor and might have an interest in achieving a result favourable to the pilots. I do not feel that there is any foundation in that, but, at this stage of setting up an arbitration panel, the port authorities will be just as sensitive to the make-up of the arbitration panel as the pilots themselves.

A suggestion has been made to a Mr. Finney of the British Ports Association that the list of the harbour authorities' representatives should consist of two names —that is, on the panel itself—nominated by Associated British Ports together with British ports authorities' representatives. I can see that that could be carried still further. If there are port authorities that are not members of the British Ports Association, obviously they would have to have some understanding as well.

I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman says. However, I wonder whether it would be more beneficial if he were to use his undoubted talent and powers of persuasion to persuade Associated British Ports to rejoin the British Ports Association. That would resolve the problem completely.

I shall definitely do what little I can to achieve that but it is far beyond a lone Back-Bencher's commitment. I know that all the bodies involved in this tussle for control — that is what it is — will be listening this evening and they will have to finalise that between themselves. I think that there will be an equitable arrangement on the ports side.

All I am saying is that all is not harmony and light on the matter of the arbitration panel. There will have to be more talks in depth with the possible members of the panel and I certainly feel that the pilots must have a firm representation. The ports authorities must have a firm representation and I could even see, as was mentioned earlier, that there might be an ancillary staff representation, because my understanding of the debate is that their voice will also be heard in arbitration matters.

Obviously my hon. Friend the Minister will not be able to give me a positive answer. He will have to find out from his Department whether there are difficulties. I believe that more port authorities are thinking of leaving the British Ports Association. However, having said that, I see a glimmer of a message coming from the Box. Perhaps if I stall for 10 seconds or more I might find out whether it will help. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has a good grasp of the Bill and is only too anxious to cast some light on it this evening.

I am told that the note does not help much, so I shall try on my own.

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill), the costs will be met from the Pilotage Commission funds, which were part of the scheme that was proposed to the Secretary of State. They will come into operation as soon as there is a dispute that makes that necessary. That could be before the appointed day, if necessary.

As for the machinations between ABP and the BPA, I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Test would expect me to join in those. It is for those bodies to come to an agreement. It is certainly the intention of the Government that the port should be properly represented. If there is any doubt about the extent of representation for the ports, the Secretary of State has powers under the Bill to make regulations, after considering the views of the parties. The position is clear: we want representatives of the ports to be on the arbitration panel.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No. 26, in page 6, line 26, leave out from first 'of' to `by' in line 27 and insert

'three members, one, the Chairman, appointed by the Secretary of State, one'.

No. 27, in page 6, line 29, after 'and', insert 'one by'. — [Mr. Michael Spicer.]

I beg to move amendment No. 29, in page 6, line 42, at end insert—

'(4A) The references to contracts in subsection (1) above do not include contracts of employment entered into before the appointed day for provision of services as a pilot before that day.'.

With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 80.

9 pm

The temporary arbitration procedure is intended to apply to cases in which a formerly self-employed pilot has been taken into employment by the competent harbour authority. In a few ports, notably Orkney and Shetland, pilots are already employed under well-established arrangements. There is no need, therefore, for special arbitration arrangements to apply. The amendments would exclude those cases from the temporary arbitration procedure.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.