Orders of the Day — Strike, London Docks (Emergency Powers)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1949.

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Photo of Mr Leslie Solley Mr Leslie Solley , Thurrock 12:00 am, 8th July 1949

The answer to that is very simple. The tradition is that while the dispute exists, irrespective of its merits, and whilst there is a bona fide belief that the job may be a "black" job, it is the custom of the industry, binding upon both sides, that no other worker shall be called in to undertake the job of a "scab"—I am using the language of the dockers. That being so, it is idle for the Minister of Labour to say, as he said the other day, that it is a statutory obligation binding upon the National Dock Labour Board that they shall request dock workers to act as scabs. There is absolutely nothing in the dock regulations which binds the National Dock Labour Board to do anything of the sort. I challenge any hon. Member to bring to the notice of the House any regulation, statutory or otherwise, which is incompatible with or contradicts the trade practice to which I have referred.

The simple solution of this lockout lies in the hands of the Government. I appreciate that the lockout has resulted in very serious injury to the economy of the country at a moment when no serious person can tolerate a further heightening of our economic crisis. But rather than say to the appropriate authorities, "These two Canadian ships must be left aside so that the whole of the rest of the dock can proceed with its ordinary, everyday work," this Labour Government has invoked the strike-breaking powers of 1920. If there be an emergency, it is an emergency which has been brought about directly as the result of the Government's action. While there may be something to be said one way or another, for the action of the dockers—I am not going into the bona fides or otherwise of the dispute; I do not pretend to have an expert knowledge of whether they are right or wrong—of this much I am confident: that the solution to this problem lies in the hands of the Government, and that while the dockers rightly think that this is a "black" job which they are being asked to do, they are acting in accordance with trade practice not to pursue it. Finally, I will just say—[An HON. MEMBER: "Give way for a reply."]—If hon. Members want me to give way for a reply, I do so immediately.