Seamen's Dispute

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 11th May 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 3:58 pm, 11th May 1988

I beg to move, That this House, noting that the National Union of Seamen is willing to accept binding arbitration and has agreed, subject to safety and reasonable crewing conditions, to accept the P & O proposals if phased over three years, well before the Channel Tunnel becomes operational in 1993, and taking account of the risk to safety for passengers as well as for seafarers from P & O proposals to cut crewing levels by 20 per cent., recruit untrained crews and introduce a fourteen hour shift day, calls upon the Government to use its influence to bring P & O to the negotiating table and to accept binding arbitration to obtain a settlement which will allow all seafarers affected by this dispute to return to work with justice, and to set up an independent inquiry into the impact of the Channel Tunnel on safety standards and the economics of ferry traffic.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Opposition have called for this debate—and I must state at the outset that we regret that the Government have not seen fit to hold this very important debate in their own time—because we believe that the dispute, which is now in its 14th week, can be resolved only by both sides getting back round the negotiating table. We believe that the maximum parliamentary and public pressure must now be exerted to bring that about.

The origins of the dispute date back to last year when P and O advised the National Union of Seamen that there was a need for rationalisation in Dover to help ferries compete with the Channel tunnel. The NUS accepted that from the start, and it still does. It made that acceptance clear at the meeting in Dover last October between the union's port committee and the P and O chairman, Sir Jeffrey Sterling.

At that meeting, undertakings were given that any rationalisation programme would be phased in over five years to coincide with the scheduled opening of the Channel tunnel in 1993. Only six weeks later, on 4 December, P and O demanded that £6 million and not a penny less should be slashed immediately from the annual wage bill of £35 million. That is a huge cut of 17 per cent.

The P and O proposals involved 400 redundancies plus a package of pay cuts, longer shifts and more days worked. On 2 February crews from all 11 ships of P and O European Ferries held secret ballots on the proposals and decided overwhelmingly that immediate application was not acceptable for safety and other reasons. P and O announced that the changes would be implemented on 4 March and the strike began.

The central point is that, although the proposals are oppressive—and the subsequent option B offered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and the P and O red book are essentially variants on the same theme—the NUS has been and is now prepared to implement the proposals so long as they are phased in over a reasonable period to take account of safety factors.

At ACAS in March, the NUS said that it would agree to savings of £2 million a year for the next three years giving P and O all that it asked for and the changes could then be introduced steadily and safely. In fact, the NUS has gone even further. It has repeatedly made clear that it is willing to accept binding arbitration and it has been asking for that for 13 weeks. P and O has refused arbitration, rejected ACAS and vetoed negotiations which it broke off after Easter.

P and O has stated its reasons for that stance in its statement which I believe has been circulated to all hon. Members. I want to examine that case. First, P and O states: P and O European Ferries Dover makes a totally inadequate return on capital—less than 10 per cent.—and investment in new ships or even major refurbishment is impossible. That seems to be a rather surprising statement when P and O reported to its shareholders that last year was a bumper year during which its profits nearly doubled to a record £275 million of which no less than £41 million came from passenger ships and ferries. It was such a good year that Sir Jeffrey Sterling felt justified in paying himself an extra £635 a week from that record profit level.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

No. I want to make some progress and get into the case. I will give way later.

If that record figure of profit is not too bad, next year looks even more promising. City stockbrokers Phillips and Drew expect P and O profits to rise next year to £350 million, including £60 million from passenger ships and ferries. That is a 50 per cent. increase in profits in that area. That is hardly the picture of a company with its back to the wall fighting for commercial survival.

P and O also claims in its statement: The business faces many future challenges not least of which are the probable loss of duty free sales and the introduction of VAT on passenger tickets, fuel and shipstores in 1992 and the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1993. Even if duty-free sales were abolished in 1992 through the implementation of the Single European Act, such a proposal could be vetoed by just one member state.

The EEC Commissioner, Mr. Stanley Clinton Davis, has said that there is little prospect of duty-free sales being abolished. Even if they were abolished, P and O's competitors, Sealink, Sally Line, the short-haul airlines, the hovercraft services and even EuroTunnel, would all be equally affected. There would be no relative loss to P and O. The same argument applies to VAT on tickets, fuel and ships' stores. There is no evidence that that will be introduced. There is clearly no reason why P and O must have the proposals introduced immediately.

P and O also claims in its statement: Shore staff have been reduced and savings made in other shore costs. Parallel savings are required afloat and agreement with the officers has been reached. A similar agreement is necessary with the ratings. That might seem to be a surprising requirement when, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a British able seaman grade 1 is already now cheaper to employ than his French, Belgian, Danish, Norwegian, West German and Dutch counterparts. Only Greek, Spanish and Portugese seafarers earn less. P and O also claims that wages have risen by 24 per cent. over the past five years, as if that were too large a rise.

The NUS members have received an average annual increase of only 4·5 per cent. a year, which is less than the rate of inflation. Nevertheless, P and O now states that it wants the same agreement with ratings that it has already reached with the officers. I imagine that that may not be too difficult to achieve since NUS ratings must work 24 hour shifts, but officers are required to work only 12 hour shifts.

Photo of Mr Keith Mans Mr Keith Mans , Wyre

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that seamen from other EEC countries work longer hours and that is why they are paid more?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I will spell out the hours worked in detail in a moment. British seafarers are paid less for working longer hours.

P and O also claims in its statement: The union has consistently failed to enter into any commitment to change outdated work practices. Like the statement made by the hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) a moment ago, the P and O statement is simply untrue. The union has given a commitment to change working practices. P and O has sought to give the impression that there will be a bonanza for seamen. P and O's full page newspaper advertisement, which I am sure that many hon. Members will have seen, refers to our offer of between £11,000 and £17,000 per year with up to 243 days off. That sounds pretty enticing. However, P and O neglects to say that only a tiny number of senior ratings and skilled craftsmen will earn anything like the top figure. P and O also somehow omits to point out what I should have thought was a very relevant point—that the salaries are for a working week of 72 hours.

The 243 days off also sounds very attractive, but is also equally misleading. A seafarer's working shift is twice as long as that of an industrial worker on shore. We must also consider the rest time. Even the allotted six hours of rest may be broken up into two or three different two or three-hour periods and they are punctuated by engine vibration, Tannoy announcements and by any emergency such as safety drills or sickness cover for which the seafarers remain on call.

Contrary to the impression given by P and O, a seaman is already at a considerable disadvantage compared with the average industrial worker in terms of working hours. The ordinary worker ashore spends an average of 42 hours a week at work and enjoys five weeks' annual holiday with weekends and bank holidays off. That is about 2,000 hours at work each year. Before the strike, the P and O ferry worker was working 93 24-hour shifts a year, which is over 2,200 hours a year. P and O is now proposing 122 24-hour shifts a year. That will be over 2,900 working hours a year, nearly 50 per cent. more time spent at work each year than the average industrial worker.

Another consequence of the proposed work system is that P and O seamen will be denied even two weeks' holiday with their families. The maximum period that could be spent ashore under the P and O proposals would be one week. The P and O offer—the company likes to call it an offer—far from being generous, is extremely harsh.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

The hon. Gentleman claims that seamen are being asked to work a large number of hours. What proportion of the 24-hour shifts are they asleep?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The maximum time that is possible for sleep is about five and a half hours. That is the maximum from the time that the seamen heaves a shift until the time that he rises and prepares for the next shift. Anyone who has tried to sleep on board ship with clanking chains, Tannoy announcements and emergencies such as drunks on deck who have to be dealt with will know that it is possible to get only a very small amount of sleep. The hon. Gentleman is making my point He is emphasising that the proposals are extremely dangerous because of the fatigue that they will generate.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

Will my hon. Friend. hear in mind that, when the Government inspectors were sent on 10 May to the Pride of Bruges to check it for safety, they found that there were six seamen short with the necessary marine evacuation escape system certificates. Such is the nature of the reduction in crew members. As a result, it was necessary to bring in six members of the catering staff so that the company could get away with it. The funds of the National Union of Seamen have been sequestrated in the face of that sort of action. It is people like Sterling who should be in court and sequestrated, not the NUS.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to make such a statement in this debate without declaring that he has an interest? The hon. Gentleman had a cut-price, grace-and-favour flat from the National Union of Seamen without even declaring it in the Register of Members' Interests. The hon. Gentleman makes himself out to be a seagreen incorruptible and yet he has not even bothered to declare that fact.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

What the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) has just said is untrue. If he believes that it is true, I suggest that he says it outside. On the other hand, what my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has said is exactly true. There are appalling consequences for safety to which I shall be referring. My hon. Friend referred to sequestration, and it is true that the NUS's assets have been removed from the union's control. If there were any justice in Thatcherite Britain, the assets of P and O would have been taken away to pay full compensation to the victims of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster.

One other matter is referred to in the P and O statement with which I must deal. The passage reads: The Red Book is a revised and improved offer of the terms and conditions of employment of the ACAS proposal, incorporating certain changes requested by the union arid offering an additional £400 per year per man on the Zeebrugge and Boulogne services.Offer" is certainly a curious word to use to describe a pay cut for some of up to £25 a week, with 28 days more to be worked each year for no extra money, no guarantee of proper rest periods at sea, no payment for excess hours and 459 redundancies.

It is claimed that there will be an extra payment of £400 a year on the Boulogne and Zeebrugge services. It is curious that P and O neglects to point out that seamen will have to work an extra 700 hours a year to earn that sum at precisely 57p an hour. I wonder how many Conservative Members would accept such an offer.

Both P and O and the Minister have made much of the claim that 60 per cent. of NUS members have accepted the new terms. If that is true, why is it that only two of P and O's 11-ship Channel fleet are now sailing?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I know that the hon. Gentleman is obsessed with intimidation. The tactics of P and O, which are, "You either accept the red book terms or you are sacked", is a form of intimidation in most people's eyes.

To date, less than 12 per cent. of the NUS members are willing to work. Of those who returned the signed red book agreement, the majority wish now to claim redundancy money or had no intention of crossing a picket line. The NUS has sworn statements from no fewer than 260 members who have now retracted their earlier decision to return to work. Several of the original strike breakers have now rejoined the strike. There is no drift back to work. Instead there is a drift back to strike.

The NUS will not and cannot accept immediate implementation of the P and O red book because there are real safety risks involved in the proposals. P and O's recruitment of untrained staff, the reduction of crewing levels by 20 per cent. and the introduction of an 18-hour shift all put at risk passenger safety only 14 months after the Herald of Free Enterprise went down last year.

Under the P and O proposals, if the Herald of Free Enterprise were to sail tonight from Zeebrugge to return to Dover, it would have a crew of only 65 officers and ratings. That would be 15 fewer than on that fateful night last year. Each of the fewer crew members would be required to work substantially longer and more tiring shifts.

It is not only the NUS and the Labour party that are deeply concerned about safety aspects. At the annual P and O shareholders' meeting last week, a shareholder commented on the Herald of Free Enterprise tragedy being dismissed in one or two lines in the annual report. He said: I hang my head in shame as a shareholder. Shareholders should be even more ashamed by the revelation of a Kent constabulary report that during the aftermath of the Zeebrugge tragedy Mr. Peter Ford, the P and O European Ferries chairman, tried to persuade the police to use company figures that showed a higher number of survivors.

Nor is the Secretary of State blameless. Last week he said: There have been general inspections of ships and their equipment, carried out in Rotterdam by Department of Transport surveyors. Emergency procedure drills were conducted before the ships left Rotterdam".—[Official Report, 5 May 1988; Vol. 132, c. 1016.] The Secretary of State did not say that those inspections were concerned only with the structural seaworthiness of the ferries and with whether officers and crews possessed the requisite qualifications. The hours which crews are required to work are a fundamental determinant of maritime safety, but they are not regulated by the Department of Trade.

I go further. The Government's amendment to our motion states, among other things, that: stringent safety inspections have been carried out by Department of Transport surveyors on the P & O ferries 'Pride of Bruges' and 'Pride of Kent', covering not only the vessels themselves and their equipment, but also the manning arrangements and the training of the crew. I shall put that statement to the test. Today, I have been given by officers and able seamen a number of examples that I shall pass on to the House. The Department of Transport inspector passed the Pride of Bruges as being fit to sail at the end of last month, even though the forward draught marks were not visible. Those marks are a key safety standard and are vital in checking a ship's stability and its angle in the water. In their absence, stability is checked, I understand, by shoving a stick down the side of the ship.

Only a few weeks after the Pride of Bruges was inspected, a motor-driven lifeboat was launched to give the new crew some experience of lifeboat procedure. It broke down. The lifeboat crew radioed the ship and the other motor-driven lifeboat—and there was only one other—was sent to rescue them. That, too, broke down.

The Government have made specific reference to manning. I ask the Secretary of State to comment on this matter. Although all crew members have a vital life-saving role to play in the event of an emergency, I am informed that on 24 January the P and O vessel the Pride of Dover sailed from Calais to Dover 15 per cent. down on its basic catering staff manning levels despite an almost full capacity passenger load.

I am advised also, as one of the many other examples which have reached my office in the past few days, that bosun Frank Franklin signed off sick from the Pride of Free Enterprise—[Interruption.] I suggest that hon. Members listen to these important details. Bosun Frank Franklin signed off sick on 4 March 1987 and he was not replaced. He left the company officially and permanently on 20 may 1987 and was not replaced. On 17 June last year, the muster sheets still listed Frank Franklin as a crew member. That is one of many examples.

Anyone who examines the muster sheets will see that they regularly record people who have been off sick for six or eight months registered as crew members. Indeed, when the NUS met P and O's accountant and managing director at the end of February to examine the fleet's wage bill, it was found that one person who was on long-term secondment and another who was dead were both listed as crew members.

My final examples concern health and safety, for which the Secretary of State has specific responsibility. I know of a case of the deck crew responsible for chaining down the wagons on the car decks complaining last year about exhaust fumes. As nothing was done, they started to wear breathing masks to protect themselves. They were told by P and O to stop wearing the masks because it would alarm the passengers. I am advised also that one reason why crews are sometimes a little slow in closing bow doors—the significance of which will not be lost on anyone—is so that they may enjoy a little more fresh air, and yet the company has still not accepted an NUS request for air conditioning.

Last year, on the Pride of Free Enterprise—which has been renamed the Pride of Bruges—the hydraulic system for closing the inner doors broke down. It was not fixed for two months, until the ship went for a refit. In the meantime, the only way of closing the bow doors was to use block and tackle. Those examples completely belie the complacent and self-satisfied statements to be found in the Government's amendment.

If all the necessary safety inspections had been carried out, how is it that the "Brass Tacks" television programme broadcast a week ago found that the Pride of Bruges—a sister ship of the Herald of Free Enterprise—frequently broke safety rules? Why did it operate last August bank holiday between Dover and Calais with insufficient seamen to man the back-up fire-fighting team? What would have happened if a fire had broken out in those circumstances? Why do ships still sail when indicator lights on the bridge designed to inform officers when the bow and stern doors are closed frequently malfunction? Why do officers continue to finish shifts over-fatigued, and why were some officers on that television programme frightened to reveal their identities before the camera when discussing the company's safety record?

I come to my first example. If the Secretary of State is so satisfied with his safety inspections, why is it that, according to information I have been given today, which I shall pass on to him, the P and O vessel Viking Venturer sailed from Falmouth to Portsmouth last Sunday night with seven blackleg, unregistered crew who had been recruited via a travel agent in Falmouth which is not licensed to supply labour—breaking all the ship safety rules? It was a shareholder who at the P and O meeting quoted a sentence from the report of Mr. Justice Sheen's inquiry following the Zeebrugge disaster which I shall repeat: From top to bottom the body corporate —he was referring to P and O European Ferries— was infected with the disease of sloppiness. Even that sloppy Townsend Thoresen management, as it then was, rejected as being unsafe working conditions similar to those which P and O is now trying to enforce. In Townsend Thoresen's submissions to ACAS in January 1986, during a previous dispute with the NUS, it stated: Extended hours of work of this magnitude without rest would compromise the safety of the ship and its passengers and crew. Those were the words of Townsend Thoresen's management two years ago. If that was true two years ago, why is it not true today?

As to the crucial issue of safety, there are two central questions which the Government have always ducked but which the Secretary of State must answer this afternoon. First, why is it that, after the wholesale indictment of the Sheen inquiry on ship safety, P and O has never been prosecuted over its responsibility for the Zeebrugge disaster? It has not even been required to undertake a fundamental redesign of its unsafe, pre-1980 ferries. Secondly, why is it also, if market forces are pushing the ferry companies into choosing between secure business and passenger safety, that the Government will not set up a full inquiry into the economic impact of the Channel tunnel on ferry safety standards? I hope that the Minister will be able to erase suspicion that the Government's reluctance to act on both counts might just have something to do with P and O's contribution of £100,000 last year to Tory party funds.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

Will the hon. Gentleman remind the House who is the treasurer of the Labour party?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The treasurer of the Labour party, as the Secretary of State knows very well, is the general secretary of the NUS, Mr. Sam McCluskie. The difference between the relationship of Sam McCluskie with the Labour party and that of Sir Jeffrey Sterling with the Conservative party is that Sir Jeffrey has had a huge pay-off in lack of prosecutions and lack of any investigation into the safety of his ships.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

The hon. Gentleman has just made a serious allegation. Is he prepared to repeat it outside the House?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Secretary of State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] The Secretary of State made an ugly innuendo about Mr. Sam McCluskie. I made a statement about what, to the great majority of impartial observers, would appear to be the relationship between Sir Jeffrey Sterling and the Conservative party. If I am wrong about that relationship and about the fact that there has been no prosecution of P and O for Zeebrugge and no investigation into the safety of P and O ships, and about all the evidence that has been produced today, and if the Secretary of State can give me a convincing and unequivocal statement to that effect, I shall gladly withdraw.

There can be no more classic illustration than this strike of the irrelevance of the Government's anti-union legislation and the damage it has done in preventing the resolution of disputes. The sacking of 2,000 seamen at Dover in the course of an industrial dispute, using a power given to employers nowhere in western Europe apart from in Thatcherite Britain, has not solved the dispute; it has aggravated it. The secondary action law, based on the sham that the issue with P and O is entirely unrelated to the issue with Sealink, when Sealink had made it clear that it would implement the same proposals as P and O, has not solved and cannot solve the dispute; it has aggravated it. Sequestration has not solved and will not resolve the dispute. It has merely opened the way to an uncontrollable rash of unofficial disputes, and it has also aggravated the original underlying issues of the dispute.

If ever there was a need for a Government committed to negotiation rather than confrontation it is now. The sole responsibility for this continuing dispute lies with the intransigence and unreasonableness of P and O. If the Government now wash their hands, Pontius Pilate-like, of their links with P and O and of their responsibilities for safety, they will have shown beyond all doubt that they are much more concerned with union breaking than with the industrial welfare of this country.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have heard the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) several minutes ago refer to the fact—I see he has snuck out of the Chamber—

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

The hon. Gentleman waited until he had gone out.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

The hon. Member for Amber Valley said that I was speaking on behalf of the seamen because I had been living at a flat owned by that union. He said that it was possibly a subsidised or grace-and-favour flat.

I want to place on record the fact that at no time while I was living at that abode was the flat anything other than regulated by the laws of the land—by the rent officer in the appropriate district. Never at any time was the flat subsidised by the NUS. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to do now what you would do if such a remark happened to have been made by an Opposition Member, and I ask you to demand that the remarks be withdrawn the moment the hon. Gentleman reappears in the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

The hon. Gentleman has made his point. We must now get on with the debate.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I have dealt with the point of order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is a very short debate and many hon. Members wish to speak.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a short and important debate, but the aspersions cast on my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) must be dealt with. It is up to you to protect the integrity of the House and to demand that the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) withdraw his allegations.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment 4:37 pm, 11th May 1988

I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'noting that Government policies have established a sound and stable legal framework for the conduct of industrial relations which has significantly reduced the incidence and impact of diputes; that the National Union of Seamen has rejected various proposals for resolving this dispute; that stringent safety inspections have been carried out by Department of Transport surveyors on the P & O ferries 'Pride of Bruges' and 'Pride of Kent', covering not only the vessels themselves and their equipment, but also the manning arrangements and the training of the crew; believes that the resolution of industrial disputes must be a matter for the parties concerned operating within the law and within their economic circumstances; and condemns acts of intimidation and unlawful secondary action designed to resolve industrial disputes by means outside the law.'.

We have just heard a large number of charges and allegations about safety from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). He made a nasty little speech, adding unsubstantiated allegation to unsubstantiated allegation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will deal in detail with points that the hon. Gentleman made about the Department of Transport and together we shall try to show that the allegations are simply untrue. We shall also investigate the new allegations made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, and make public our findings on them.

The hon. Gentleman's first allegation was that Government surveyors found that the crew were short of six certificated persons to operate the marine escape system. I am told that that is untrue and that the surveyor found that there were more than enough certificated persons on board both ships.

We have also heard the charge that the Government's policy is unduly influenced by the interests of P and O. We shall take what the hon. Gentleman said later in his speech as a complete withdrawal of the nasty allegation he made at one stage. The general allegation is also untrue. I found it extraordinary that he should accuse anyone of partiality given that he has shown his own independence by appearing on the picket line of the NUS. We know exactly where his orders come from. In this dispute he is acting as a spokesman of the NUS.

Most significantly, we have heard almost nothing about the unlawful secondary action of the NUS, which has been the root cause of much of the trouble. We have heard little or nothing about its effect on companies such as Sealink and on the free movement of passengers and freight. We have heard little or nothing about the two days of talks at the TUC, in which the NUS shop stewards once again refused to call off their secondary action. We have heard nothing about the Labour party's position on the NUS refusal to observe the law of the land.

The reason why the Government introduced legislation on secondary action was to prevent industrial action from being used as a weapon against those who are not directly involved with the company in dispute. The Government's action has been confirmed by two general elections. In any test of public opinion there is no doubt that the measures that we have taken are supported by the vast majority of the British public. The Labour party promises to scrap that law. That is only one more reason why it will remain firmly anchored to the Opposition Benches.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

I am sure that the House is grateful for the history lesson, but the House, the public and the seamen want to know whether the Government are prepared to intervene to try to bring the dispute to an end.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I am covering that precise point.

We want to know from the Opposition their position on secondary action which is now causing vast difficulty throughout the country.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

What are the Government going to do about it?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

What is beyond doubt is that measures on secondary action—

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

What are the Government going to do about it?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

The hon. Gentleman must stop being so pompous. He cannot duck his responsibilities, or those of the Labour party, by such mindless chanting.

The NUS has the right to seek to change the law. There is no question about that. The hon. Member for Oldham, West has the right to promise to change the law. But it must be recognised that no one has the right to refuse to observe the law as it stands. I hope that the hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

No, I shall not give way for the moment.

I hope that the hon. Member for Oldham, West will now make it clear that he accepts the law and that he will advise the NUS to lift its unlawful secondary action. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to make the Labour party's position clear.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I shall not give way.

I challenge the hon. Member for Oldham, West to condemn secondary action in Britain.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

The House and the country will draw their own conclusion.

Photo of Mr Donald Coleman Mr Donald Coleman , Neath

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that it does this House no good to have more than one hon. Member standing in his place during the debate?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

The hon. Member for Oldham, West—

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

No, I shall not give way.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West shows a cringing indifference to the welfare of the British public. The fact is this. Nothing obliged Mr. McCluskie to lead his union into conflict with the law. What has brought the NUS to its present crisis is an obstinate determination to seize, by unlawful means if necessary, what it failed to obtain at the negotiating table.

The law on secondary action is there to protect those who are not involved in a dispute, including companies, from having gratuitous loss or damage inflicted upon them. I must repeat that it is entirely right that such companies should be protected against the reckless and indiscriminate action of a frustrated union.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

No, I shall not give way.

Nor can it be argued that the NUS has in any sense been caught unawares. The basic injunction banning unlawful secondary action was granted on 1 February, and sequestration was first applied for on 11 February. The union has known for three months precisely what legal risks it was running, and the instructions given to its bank to move its funds showed that it understood the implications of the sequestration imposed on other unions in the past. It has deliberately chosen to disobey the law and it is suffering the penalties which the law provides. It is impossible not to share the views of the judge in the case who said: The National Union of Seamen has been flagrantly, repeatedly and gravely in breach of the injunction granted by this court … Members and their leaders have only themselves to blame. This is the clearest possible case of deliberate, attempted suicide.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

No, I shall not give way.

The Opposition's motion advances a number of bogus—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not persist. The Secretary of State has made it clear that he is not giving way.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

The Opposition's motion advances a number of bogus arguments, and none is more bogus than the allegations on safety. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will deal at greater length with those matters later, but certain fundamental points have to be made at the outset.

First, safety is an absolute statutory duty. It is an offence to sail boats which are unsafe through undermanning. Moreover, watch-keeping arrangements must be adequate to avoid fatigue. All allegations are investigated and, I repeat, any new allegations will be investigated and offenders will be liable to prosecution.

Secondly, the two ferries plying between Dover and Zeebrugge, the Pride of Kent and the Pride of Bruges, have been exhaustively inspected—not only the vessels themselves and their equipment, but the manning and training of the crew. They must be the most inspected ferries ever to operate from British ports.

Thirdly, it is wholly false to say that P and O operates or proposes to operate with untrained crews. All crews, whatever their tasks, are given training both ashore and on board about their duties in ensuring the safety of passengers in all circumstances.

Fourthly, the suggestion that the P and O proposals involve undermanning which endangers passenger safety is also false. Crew members may be reduced, but essential safety duties governed by Department of Transport standards are covered.

I repeat for the third time that all allegations, including those made months after the event—some of the allegations of the hon. Member for Oldham, West go back to last year—are being and will be investigated. But we all know that safety is not at the heart of this dispute. It is a smokescreen. Indeed, Mr. McCluskie has said time and again that the dispute is not about the substance of the P and O proposals but about their phasing in. He accepts the new arrangements, but questions their timing. That surely gives the lie to the whole safety argument mounted by the Opposition.

The Opposition ask the Government to use their influence to bring P and O to the negotiating table. should remind the House that P and O was at the negotiating table for several months; that it made significant relaxations to its original proposals; that it lifted deadlines on two or three occasions to allow further time for negotiations; that it participated fully in ACAS conciliation activities from mid-March, and that since the beginning of February those negotiations were conducted under the duress of a strike at Dover.

It was not until all those processes had been exhausted and three months of strike endured that P and O put its final—again improved—offer direct to its employees at Dover. The NUS did not put that offer to the membership—there was no secret ballot on that—but sought further concessions. However, more than 1,000 P and O staff accepted the terms and the company was able to restart ferry operations from Dover.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford East

Why does not the Secretary of State recommend that P and O goes to arbitration? As the NUS has accepted, the dispute has gone through a category of developments and we now want that final development; we want the dispute to go to arbitration. Why does not the Secretary of State recommend that?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

If the right hon. Gentleman will wait a few minutes, I shall come to precisely that point.

The Government's view—it is one to which the Labour party usually subscribes when in government—is that disputes should be settled by the parties within the law. Even if that were not the position, there is no case whatever, against the background that I have set out, for the Government seeking to intervene as the Opposition suggest.

The Opposition's motion moves from a reference to the negotiating table to binding arbitration, to which the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) referred. There is an important difference between negotiation and arbitration. In negotiation both parties are able to protect what they consider to be their fundamental interests. No doubt the NUS and P and O did that throughout the prolonged negotiations leading up to the company's letter to its employees on 14 April.

Arbitration takes away that protection and hands over judgment on vital commercial matters to outsiders with no stake whatever in the success or failure of the company. [Interruption.] If they want to go to ACAS, there is no problem. Sometimes people are prepared to hand that judgment over, either on an ad hoc basis or as the final stage of an agreed procedure. But the decision whether to do so must remain a matter for the parties, in the light of their own circumstances. It is not a matter for the Government.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

The Secretary of State knows that I was party to some of the discussions, at the invitation of the union and Sir Jeffrey. The dispute was about how the £6 million was made up and how much could be saved. There is a genuine dispute between the NUS and P and O about how the figures were arrived at, although I shall not go into the details now. The NUS said, "Let us go to independent arbitration on the question of the figures. If your figures are right, we shall accept them, but if our interpretation is right, we will not." We are talking not about all the commercial details but about how the figure of £6 million is arrived at. That is the simple issue, but Sir Jeffrey does not want anybody going over any of his figures or subjecting them to discussion.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

I know of the hon. Gentleman's interest in and knowledge of this subject. If people are prepared to go to arbitration at some stage, that is a matter for them; it is a decision for the parties concerned. [Interruption.] It must be. There is nothing new in what I am saying. That principle was applied by Labour Ministers, too.

The motion also calls for an independent inquiry into the impact of the Channel tunnel on the economics of ferry traffic. There cannot be many people who want yet another inquiry into the Channel tunnel. The history of the Channel tunnel is a history of inquiries. Labour Members are trying to go back to another age in industrial relations. They must recognise that the tunnel is now being built; the decision has been made. It is up to everyone concerned to make decisions accordingly.

One aspect of the dispute that has received too little attention is the fact that it is handing business on a plate to foreign-manned vessels. Surely we all want an effective and competitive British ferry industry. That is not being achieved by the actions in the dispute, which has caused disruption at the ports, now added to by the actions of the lorry drivers. It has caused hardship and inconvenience to the travelling public and financial loss to companies and members of the NUS. Regrettably and indefensibly, it has also given rise to examples of intimidation and arrest. To date, there have been some 103 reported cases of intimidation, threatening phone calls and daubing of houses and about 17 arrests. That should be condemned by both sides of the House.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he intends to do about the lorry blockade—not by union members but by individuals? What laws apply to those individuals and how does he propose to deal with that situation?

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Secretary of State for Employment

As the hon. Gentleman knows, talks are going on at the moment between Sealink and the harbour board and the lorry drivers affected. If we have further news, we shall convey it to the House as soon as we can.

The Government's role is threefold. First, we must ensure the safety of vessels. I entirely accept that, as does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. Secondly, we must ensure that public order is maintained. Thirdly, we must provide a framework of law in which disputes can be resolved.

We should also be clear where the rights of the public lie in cases such as this. First, there is a right to work without being harassed, intimidated, assaulted or threatened. Secondly, people have a right to make up their own minds whether to strike or cross a picket line. Thirdly, workers have a right to decide whether to sign a contract. Fourthly, everyone has a right to unimpeded access to the ports. There is no right to spread a strike to companies unconnected with the central dispute. There is no right to stop fellow workers going to work or to use force where persuasion has failed. Finally, there is no right to pick and choose which laws to obey. That is why I ask the House to reject the motion.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. It will be evident to the House that a very large number of hon. Members on both sides wish to speak in this short debate, so I appeal for short contributions.

Photo of Frank Doran Frank Doran , Aberdeen South 4:57 pm, 11th May 1988

I am a new Member of the House, and a major cause of frustration is that in my short time here I have repeatedly seen the Government duck their responsibilities. I thought that we had sunk as low as we could yesterday when the Prime Minister attempted to foist responsibility for the housing benefit cuts on to local authorities, but what we have just heard from the Secretary of State for Employment boggles the mind. He is attempting to deny responsibility—the responsibility of this Government and his predecessors—for changes in industrial relations law which have meant that an industrial dispute no longer starts with negotiation and with the parties round the table. The Government have removed any encouragement to adopt that course. Instead, we have immediate recourse to the courts and to dismissal notices. It is no wonder that the strike has spread across the country.

Regardless of the laws that the Secretary of State attempted to state, in the full knowledge that the Secretary of State for Transport is blind to the safety laws that the country demands, there must come a time—

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Selective recognition of the law.

Photo of Frank Doran Frank Doran , Aberdeen South

It is selective recognition, as my hon. Friend says.

I am worried about the effects that the dispute is having on my constituency. I represent part of the city of Aberdeen, which has a substantial seafaring community. In my constituency there are more than 4,000 registered members of the National Union of Seamen. As far as I am aware, they are all involved in the dispute. There are also a large number of interests that are quite separate from the dispute. The dispute, which started in Dover and which seems to be about the balance sheet of P and O rather than about anything else, is having an effect on the ferry service to the northern islands and has disrupted supplies to the North sea oil industry.

On Monday I travelled to London to come to the House on the same train as a full-time officer of the National Union of Seamen, Mr. Harry Bygate, who is based in Aberdeen. We spent most of the journey looking through the various writs that had been served upon him. He has now received 18 writs from 18 separate supply companies based in Aberdeen and in other parts of the country. Every one of those writs tells its own story. Every one of those writs means that industrial relations in those companies have been disrupted.

I make no apologies for repeating that P and O, Sealink and every other employer now feels that there is no option but to bring the courts into the dispute at the earliest possible stage, as that provides a major strategic advantage. Negotiation has gone out of the window. There is no incentive for an employer to negotiate, whether that employer is at the heart of the dispute, as P and O is, or whether it is a simple, one-man operation attempting to send vital supplies to the North sea industry. Employers now go to the courts.

The Government, by avoiding their responsibility to the wider interests of this country, are ignoring the serious implications for the future. I must express my disappointment that the Secretary of State simply thumped the table, referred to the various statutes for which the Government have been responsible, and ignored the effect of that law on the wider community. The Government make apologies for their own supporters, the chairman and the board of P and O, but ignore the rest of the country. That raises very serious questions.

I shall give the House one example of the way in which P and O has conducted the dispute. The ferry link from Aberdeen to Shetland is vital, as it carries essential goods and provisions to the islands. The National Union of Seamen is very conscious of the effect that any industrial dispute would have on the service to the islands. Last year it negotiated with the Shetland Islands council an agreement to ensure that essential supplies to the island would be maintained. One ferry per week would be allowed to leave from Aberdeen carrying essential supplies.

As soon as the dispute began, the Shetland Islands council was contacted. The NUS agreed that it would allow that one ferry to go and that the wages of the staff would be paid direct to charity. None of the NUS members would receive any payment. They would work voluntarily to ensure that that vital link to the islands was preserved.

P and O was contacted and asked whether it would allow the profits for that trip to be paid to the nominated charity or to a charity of its choice. The NUS was prepared to leave the choice of charity to the Shetland Islands council. The response from P and O was, "No. We want our profits." The whole dispute is about profit. Nothing from P and O, and nothing from the Government, has suggested anything else.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The hon. Gentleman has illustrated the position clearly. Undoubtedly, the shipments to Shetland are very welcome indeed. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency there is considerable sympathy for NUS members, and considerable scepticism about P and O's case? Will he explain why the case against P and O is jeopardised when secondary action is taken against, for example, the one-man operation in Aberdeen that supplies the North sea oil rigs? Does he not think that that muddies the waters and does not allow the focus to be on the real dispute with P and O?

Photo of Frank Doran Frank Doran , Aberdeen South

I was coming to that. The hon. Gentleman is quite right to point out that the dispute is with P and O. I am trying to make the point that the dispute has not spread because of secondary action by the NUS, which in my constituency has made its position fairly clear. It stated in court this morning that the action that was taken had nothing to do with the P and O dispute, but occurred because the union's funds were sequestrated. The NUS members have come out because their union has been attacked.

Clearly, the Minister and P and O do not understand the affection in which the union is held. Recently, I was proud to attend the one hundredth anniversary of the NUS in Aberdeen. It was a very moving occasion, when representatives of the city from all walks of life paid tribute to the work of the union.

I have no hesitation in saying that the city of Aberdeen supports the dispute. Last week there was a benefit concert. for the NUS which more than 1,300 people attended. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow.. Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) has reminded me that I should point out that the district council election in Aberdeen was held two days after that concert, and the Labour party took back control.

There is huge support for the National Union of Seamen, and the Government's failure to become involved in the dispute, and the cavalier way in which the Secretary of State dismissed the pressure that the Government could bring to bear on P and O to return to the negotiating table, to allow arbitration and have the claims of both sides independently and objectively tested, show that the Government care nothing for industrial relations. They are concerned for their friends and for profits, and for nothing else. The interests of the British people, the North sea oil industry and industrial relations throughout the merchant shipping industry mean nothing to the Government. They are concerned only with profit and with their friends, and they should be castigated for that.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh 5:06 pm, 11th May 1988

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) made a fair point on the extent to which the strike has spread, but he has failed to answer his own question about who is responsible for it.

Let us be absolutely clear that this is not a general industrial dispute between the ship owners, as represented by the British Shipping Federation, and the National Union of Seamen. Nor is it an industrial dispute involving ferries in general. Those who know the industry reasonably well will recognise that the whole method by which ferries are operated is completely different from the method by which deep sea ships are operated. The way of life for the crews concerned is entirely different.

There could be a case for saying that, given the challenge of the Channel tunnel, there might be grounds for a general dispute between crew members, the unions involved and the owners. However, that is not the case. It is an absolutely specific dispute between P and O, European Ferries (Dover) Ltd., and the National Union of Seamen. It does not involve the other ferry companies. Indeed, Sealink, the main competitor to P and O Ferries, has made it very clear that there is no dispute between it and the NUS. It is worth reminding ourselves that P and O Ferries is no longer a member of the British Shipping Federation. Hence the National Maritime Board is not, and cannot be, involved in the current dispute.

Therefore, the dispute does not of itself raise the issue of how seamen in general are employed, how the terms of their employment are settled, which trade union should represent them, or, indeed, whether they should be members of a trade union. Nor does it raise the wider issue of what is loosely called the closed shop at sea.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin , Glasgow Springburn

Does the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of shipping, agree that the fact that the funds have been sequestrated means that the dispute has spread to the deep sea merchant seamen because they will not allow their union to be attacked in that way?

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

The dispute is not about that. I am trying to help the House by attempting to define precisely what the dispute is about.

It therefore follows that any industrial action taken against other shipping companies than P and O must, by definition, be illegal secondary action and must be condemned. That appears to be the view of the courts and that is what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment confirmed. Consequently I raise the inappropriateness—that is the most modest word that I can use—of the action taken by the National Union of Seamen against Sealink.

Apart from Sealink not being in dispute with the union, it has offered to take on, perhaps only on a temporary basis, some of the seamen who are redundant because of the action taken by P and O. I can think of no less constructive way of attempting to solve the dispute than the action that the NUS has taken against Sealink. I have no personal interest to declare in Sealink. I am looking at the matter objectively. Are the Opposition really able to support some of the wilder demonstrations involving secondary picketing in a dispute that should be confined to P and O Ferries? On many occasions my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) has referred in the House to incidents that do not help to resolve the dispute.

Sealink appears to be on a hiding to nothing. So are the poor old lorry drivers. They have every reason to be angry, but they seem to be completely disregarded by all the parties to the dispute. A number of long-distance lorry drivers live in my constituency. Many other hon. Members will share that experience. Lorry drivers are greatly affected by the dispute. They are the victims of a dispute over which they have no control and to which they are not parties. P and O and the National Union of Seamen ought to think carefully about what is happening to lorry drivers.

Reason and good sense will prevail only when secondary action, with all its consequent overtones, is called off. The dispute is between the National Union of Seamen and P and O. Nobody else is directly involved. My oft-repeated view is that the Floor of the House of Commons is not the right place to attempt to resolve an industrial dispute; nor is it right to attempt to resolve it on television. The speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and the interventions of hon. Members on both sides of the House support my view.

Where should we look for a resolution of the dispute? There are two classic ways to resolve it—by arbitration or by conciliation. Hon. Members know that they are not the same. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to that distinction and I believe that all hon. Members agreed with him. In theory, both arbitration and conciliation remain available, but both options require the active participation of both parties. To use an old saying, It takes two to tango. If one party to the dispute is not prepared to participate, there is little that one can do about it.

P and O has said that the time has passed for such approaches and that it has made new arrangements with half its work force. Some may say that P and O should be more co-operative, but as half its work force has accepted the so-called red book offer, P and O argues that it does not need to reopen negotiations with the National Union of Seamen. Where necessary, it is recruiting new employees on the basis of the red book offer. In those circumstances, I do not believe that hon. Members have a legal or a moral locus in the dispute other than in the important area of safety, specifically relating to crew manning and crew qualifications. I shall leave it at that until my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport addresses the House.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

No. I want to make only a short speech because many other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

I am using this occasion to offer my personal advice to Jeffrey Sterling and Sam McCluskie. When I was a manager in industry, I was very much involved in many areas of industrial relations that were said to be sensitive, but we never lost an hour, let alone a day or a week, of work through an industrial dispute. I understand fairly well the trade union movement. My first boss, a large, 17-stone Glaswegian engineer, said to me once: David, it's often our duty in life to stand on our colleagues' feet, but always resist the temptation to push them down in public.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:16 pm, 11th May 1988

The speech of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) was certainly more reasoned in tone than that of the earlier contributions. At the risk of losing any friends that I may have in the House, I must say that the Front Bench speeches displayed the unacceptable faces of both the Labour and the Conservative parties. It became a straight shouting match. Both sides were selective over the facts that they chose to use to promote their arguments. It is important that the facts should be considered in the round.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh referred to secondary picketing. It is not just a legal question. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) has laid himself open to criticism. Sequestration took place because of secondary picketing. I am not sure that in law it is a defence to say that the subsequent extension of secondary picketing was due to sequestration. Leaving aside the law, secondary picketing seems to me to be a very unwise tactic for the NUS to adopt. The dispute is between the NUS and P and O. To target Sealink is extraordinary because Sealink is a potentially useful ally of the union.

I do not understand why the NUS cannot see that the best way to defeat P and O is for it to have a successful competitor that can offer additional services. If it were successful, it would keep P and O ships in port and out of operation. That would provide the NUS with a much better chance of pressing its dispute to a successful conclusion. At the least, it would ensure that conciliation and arbitration were used.

I should have liked the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) to urge the Dover port committee to listen to the advice of Sam McCluskie. He should have asked for the secondary picketing to be called off and for all attention to be concentrated on the union's dispute with P and O. It is regrettable that the Secretary of State for Employment failed to condemn the intransigence of the P and O management. P and O is clearly intent on becoming a non-union company. It is possibly even paving the way for becoming a non-British company.

In the last two days Government spokesmen have referred to the right of trade unions in Poland freely to organise and pursue their legitimate ends, but quite different speeches have been made by Ministers in the context of the legitimate actions of unions in this country. The P and O management is exploiting a weak union and the law, and it is doing so in such a way as to raise a number of serious questions.

There is evidence that at the meeting of P and O shareholders last week the management did not have the support of all its shareholders. Members will have seen the article in The Guardian which said: thc company was accused of intimidating the workforce, being used as the militant wing of the Conservative party and neglecting safety. The chairman, Sir Jeffrey Sterling, was urged to resign unless he went back to the negotiating table and was even accused of doing more moonlighting than some of the employees he had criticised. Those criticisms were made by shareholders of the company, but their attempt to raise the issue was ruled out of order. Victor Keegan, the author of The Guardian article, asked the pertinent question; should there not have been a secret ballot of the shareholders to find out whether that view had significant support? The point that I am making is that shareholders in P and O are less than happy about the conduct of its management and its intransigence. That is an interesting and relevant development.

Even more to the point, the Secretary of State seemed to imply that he did not see a role for arbitration in resolving disputes. He seemed to suggest that that method of resolving disputes should not apply in this case or in future. When there is intransigence and inability to resolve a dispute, conciliation and arbitration are necessary. It would have been a welcome move if the Secretary of State had at least taken the opportunity to encourage the management to take account of that.

The safety issues that have been raised have been dismissed in a cavalier manner. Representations made to me show that there is real public concern. For the Government to be so offhand when the tragic memory of the Zeebrugge disaster is so fresh in people's minds is alarming. The management of P and O is seeking to ensure that its crews work much longer hours and on a smaller staffing ratio. It has already been made clear that if the new arrangements had been in operation, the Herald of Free Enterprise would have sailed with 15 fewer crew and staff and that they would have been more overworked and more tired than they were at the time of the disaster.

That suggests that there should be independent regulation of staffing methods rather than that being left to the commercial judgment of a management which has already been shown to be severely flawed. In these circumstances, the Government have not given the assurances that would inspire public confidence that they put safety above commercial interest and profit. it seems that they have not learnt the lesson of the Zeebrugge tragedy. The public would have expected the Minister to demonstrate that the Government had done so.

I support free enterprise enthusiastically, but it should be fair. The crucial difference between the approach of my party and that of the Government is that fairness is not of interest to the Government, either in the operation of the market or in the balance between management and employees in the operation of companies. It is extraordinary that the Government do not believe that they have any locus or responsibility in the matter.

It would be helpful if the Labour Front Bench would urge the Dover committee to accept the advice of Sam McCluskie to call off secondary picketing and concentrate on the dispute with P and O, and if the Secretary of State for Transport put pressure on the P and O management to recognise that a negotiated settlement is in everyone's interest if British-owned ferries are to have a constructive future in the strategic interest of ensuring that, as an island nation, we have safe, well-operated, efficient and consumer-satisfying ferry services operating across the Channel.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover 5:24 pm, 11th May 1988

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this important debate which concerns my constituency. As always on matters concerning his constituency, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) is in his place on the Bench beside me. He has followed events closely throughout the dispute. He has been deeply concerned about the intimidation and other threats in his constituency because of the dispute.

As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the conventions of the House prevent my hon. and learned Friend from taking part in the debate, but both he and I wish to thank first and foremost the police who have had a very difficult task throughout the dispute. I visited the police station in Dover to get a briefing on the position. Many policemen have been involved, not just from Kent but from other counties. They have had to work long hours. When missiles were thrown in one incident which started at 1.30 am, policemen who had gone off duty at 11 pm had to be called back. We should not forget that policewomen are also carrying out police duties on the picket lines, and we must thank them as well.

I also wish to pay tribute to all those, striking or not, who work in the ferry industry in Dover and Folkestone. Some 6,000 people work directly in the industry and many more are involved indirectly. About two thirds of them are not involved in the dispute and they want to get on with their jobs. Over the last 30 years the ferry industry in Dover and Folkestone has expanded considerably. Sadly, there have been quite a few strikes; 1985 was a bad year when there were five strikes. Consequently, profitability has been low. Figures supplied by the trade union research unit at Ruskin college, Oxford, show that the profits of P and O today are less than they were 10 years ago. These are the trade unions' own figures. I have them here for any hon. Member who wishes to inspect them.

The changes that will be required in the ferry industry are severe and deep. The Channel tunnel is fundamental to those changes. Also, in 1992 the removal of duty-free goods and Customs barriers will necessitate changes in the ferry industry. Indeed, the trade union research unit report said: There can be little argument concerning the need to rationalise the present ferry operations to compete with the tunnel. The dispute is a tragedy for the working people of Dover and for the shopkeepers and the small business men of Dover and Deal. It is also a tragedy for the lorry drivers whose frustration has resulted in their queueing on the M20. It is a tragedy for people all over the country who have been affected by it. My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) has brought to my attention the fact that in her constituency a small transport firm is threatened with being put out of business. Eight families are heavily involved.

Since the strike began I have had considerable contact with all parties in the dispute, including members of the National Union of Seamen and of the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers. As well as speaking to union officials and company representatives, I have talked to shopkeepers, freight companies and others affected by the dispute. There is no question but that many trade unionists were sensible and moderate. Early in the dispute many told me that they did not like the original blue book terms issued by the company in December. Some of the officers thought that those terms were difficult for the crews to operate.

I put those points to P and O which was at ACAS at the time, undergoing the advisory, conciliation and arbitration procedures. ACAS suggested new terms. P and O took on board the points that had been put to me and those put by ACAS. After three months of negotiations and arbitration, the company produced new terms known as the red book. The union then rejected those terms without explaining them to its members.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

The union rejected them. I shall come to that point in a moment.

The union members raised a number of concerns with me and I am sure that hon. Members will not object if I detain them with some of the detailed points. They wanted to know how long the red book terms would last. I put that point to the company which said that it envisaged that they would last at least two years. That was a reasonable request from reasonable trade unionists who were worried that the terms might be renegotiated in six months.

The union members wanted to know why the basic pay was below National Maritime Board rates, so I put that point to the company. The company explained to me that the rates of pay were between £11,000 and £17,000, of which many people in this country would be envious. However, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) failed to mention that not only is that basic rate of pay payable, but that there is in addition a cash profit-sharing scheme and a shares profit-sharing scheme.

When I put those points to the union members, they asked how the profit-sharing scheme worked. They said that they were not aware of a cash profit-sharing scheme. They said that the union officials had not told them about that scheme. I therefore asked the company how it worked, as any logical and sensible person would do. The company told me that, in North Sea Ferries, part of P and O, where a successful profit-sharing scheme is in operation, it can mean another 30 pay days per year if the company is successful. That is in addition to the shares profit-sharing schemes.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth , Cannock and Burntwood

Is my hon. Friend aware that those incentives were not available to ordinary seamen when I was a member of the National Union of Seamen and an employee of P and O in 1965?

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

My hon. Friend makes a good and valid point. When I go on to mention some of the other terms and conditions, I expect that his mouth will water and that he will wonder why he left shipping and came to the House of Commons.

Many of the men were concerned about the rest periods, just as many hon. Members would be concerned. Is it true, as the Labour party has said in its statements, that men can be required to work for 18 hours non-stop? Of course it is not true. They have 10 hours off and six hours off for sleep are guaranteed, except in emergencies. Out of a 24-hour period, the normal working period would be 14 hours, but that 14-hour period would be broken up by meal breaks and by a sleep break. [Interruption.] The men have meal breaks, just as anyone else does.

I discovered that there were other points that the union officials had not explained to their members. Trade union officials told me that the red book redundancies were worse than the blue book redundancies. When I put that point to the company, it said that there were 100 fewer redundancies under the red book terms than there had been under the blue book terms. It is no wonder that there is a strike when the union officials do not properly explain the contracts to their members.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

The points mentioned by the hon. Gentleman were spelt out in the document given to the company and distributed to every member who voted on it. In one case, where the members wanted to vote, the owners instructed the courts to intervene to stop the NUS conducting a secret ballot.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

I shall deal with the ballot procedures in a moment. Those procedures are very interesting.

At my meeting with the union officials and members, I asked how they would decide whether to accept the new terms, including the good pay and other favourable aspects. They told me that there would be a car park meeting. I asked why they had decided to hold such a meeting. That question was also asked by others, so it was not a case of a Tory MP creating political bias. There were 20 union members—about half of those present at the meeting in Dover—who said that they wanted a secret ballot, although the union insisted on a car park meeting.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

No, they did not. I received anonymous phone calls at home, asking why the union would not give its members their dignity by allowing a secret ballot. Then I discovered a letter from the union, dated 22 January, telling its members that there would be a secret ballot. The union proposed a postal ballot to its membership. According to an article in The Times of 6 May, the letter stated: the outcome of negotiations with the company on new work rotas would be 'placed before the fleet by way of a postal ballot and you alone will decide whether to accept or reject the offer'. Why did the union not do that? The headline of the letters page of my local newspaper the East Kent Mercury asked: Why wasn't there a secret ballot?

That is what a seaman's wife who wrote to the paper wants to know. She said: Nothing has been said of the fact that there was not a secret ballot at the start of this strike and that at all the open meetings, where there was a show of hands, many of the people there were not even employees of P and O.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

The hon. Gentleman wants another letter. The Dover Express has another letter for him. Unfortunately, the writer of that letter was too terrified to give details of his or her name and address, but the newspaper is prepared to supply the name and address, if necessary. It asked: Isn't it time the union held a secret ballot for its Dover members? Those are the letters of ordinary men and women who work on the ferries. Those people want a secret ballot. Hon. Members will wonder what happened in those car park meetings in Dover. Was the 30-page contract discussed? Were all the terms and conditions discussed? Were the £17,000-a-year salaries discussed? I accept that those salaries are at the top of the range, but were the £11,000 to £17,000 salaries discussed? The details were not discussed.

The motion, which I heard myself, was, "Do you think that the company should go back and negotiate more?" One might just as well ask a man whether he has stopped beating his wife. Obviously, if one asks people whether the company should go back and negotiate further, they will say yes, especially in an open meeting surrounded by many people who do not even appear to he employees of P and O. It was a disgraceful meeting in the car park. There should have been a secret ballot.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

There should have been a secret ballot because the hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the NUS. said: My trade union actively ballots, in most cases by way of postal ballot, on matters concerning strikes, the election of officials, the political fund—;the political fund will now be governed by legislation—and various other matters. In other words, ballots are an integral part of my union.—[0fficial Report, 23 April 1985; Vol. 77, c. 777.] Why no secret ballot then?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that he has presented no evidence to support the charges that he is making. It is written in all our union books, and has been for a long time, that we have secret ballots. The newspaper quotation that the hon. Gentleman gave confirms the union's policy. We have ballots at the outcome of negotiations.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

The hon. Gentleman has got to do it. If he wants it, let him have it. He must say now—I shall give way to him if he wishes—that he will go to Sam McCluskie and the Dover port committee and ask for a secret ballot.

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

The NUS has made it clear that, when agreement has been reached in negotiations, the matter will be put to the members in a secret ballot. [HoN MEMBERS: "When?"] When the union concludes negotiations and when Sir Jeffrey Sterling comes back to the negotiating table.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

I fear that the hon. Gentleman lacks credibility. Only one secret ballot has been held. I have here the yellow paper on which it was conducted. It shows the terms on which people have accepted work. Some 1,100 have accepted, and 985 of them were audited by the closing date by the treasurer of Kent university, who is generally accepted as independent. The paper says, "I"—there is then a space for the full name and rank— apply for employment on the new terms and conditions proposed by the Arbitration and Conciliation and Advisory Service as detailed in the enclosed document.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

It must be a secret ballot because the forms were carried back to the P and O offices by members of the postal workers union. Unless Opposition Members maintain that communications workers opened the mail, it must have been a secret ballot.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

A secret ballot paper does not show a person's name.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

I should be grateful if Opposition Members would allow me to continue. I wish to finish to allow others to speak.

The House will want to know some of the terms that are being offered. I spoke earlier of the salaries being offered and of the cash profit-sharing scheme and the shares profit-sharing scheme. There is free travel at least once a year for signatories to the new terms. Duty-free goods are available at special prices. There are other benefits.

The House will be aware that the 24 hours on, 24 hours off service is already operated by other shipping lines. There are many shipping lines which operate around the British coast that work two crews per ship. P and O proposes three crews per ship. That is a change from 3·6 and an improvement on the original blue book terms of 2·4. P and O's main competitor in Dover—Sealink— already operates 24 hours on, 24 hours off terms. Indeed, they were negotiated by the NUS with Sealink two years ago.

I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth), who has experience of working in P and O and was a member of the NUS, had one week's compassionate leave available to him. That is what P and O is putting on offer. This hard-nosed employer, as the Opposition describe it, is making one week's compassionate leave available for anybody who has a relative who dies. I did not get that when I was at work.

The terms cannot be all that bad—1,100 people have accepted and 5,000 more applicants have not been accepted. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will consider all these factors. There is no question but that safety is paramount. It is not, however, the scaremongering safety that we heard about from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). What he said was unrealistic, unsubstantiated and, for all we know, untrue.

The public will want reassurance, as I am sure hon. Members will. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be able to confirm what I have been told following my inquiries—that his inspectors have checked and approved the ships, lifeboats, operating procedures and crewing arrangements of each P and O ship that puts to sea.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West frequently talks about the number of crew being reduced. He fails to say that his figures are for the Zeebrugge route and that the main change to that route is that one restaurant is being closed. The majority of the crew he referred to are waiters and waitresses who will not be required because of a restaurant closure.

The House will want to know that the company has assured me that any question about safety that I or any other hon. Member wants to raise with it will be dealt with. The company has assured me that its practice is always to overcrew.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that some of those waiters and waitresses on whom Conservative Members spat and are still spitting their contempt saved lives during the Zeebrugge disaster involving the Herald of Free Enterprise? They are vital members of the crew when accidents or fires occur.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

I freely confirm that, in my constituency and in many others, seamen lost their lives and saved the lives of others. They were seamen involved in all aspects of work. They are all important. That is why the company told me, following my inquiry, that it is the practice always to overcrew ships in case somebody goes sick. There are therefore always enough people to man lifeboats and to cope with accidents.

If any examples of that not being the case are reported to me, I shall be happy to investigate and pursue them. I would be the first to shout in the House if that happened, and I have told Sealink and P and O that. I represent a ferry port, as does my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe. It is important to both of us that the ferries are safe, because our constituents work on them, travel on them and earn their livelihoods from them.

One aspect of the terms will make ferries safer than ever before. The company has insisted—it is fundamental to the terms—that no alcohol will be consumed by any crew member on board a ship.

I spoke earlier about the difficulties facing the police. I would like to think that all hon. Members condemn the acts of violence and intimidation. People with weapons have been arrested. There has been damage to somebody's car. A company tie was tied around the windscreen wipers with the message, "Next time, this will be around your son's neck." Missiles have been thrown at coaches. Homes have been daubed with paint. They are not just seamen's homes—an 81-year-widow's home was daubed.

The intimidation is dreadful. Lists of people who are working have been assembled and circulated on picket lines. The subjects then receive telephone calls. A video recording was made of people disembarking the aeroplane when they went to crew ships. The videos were taken because, the union admitted, it wanted to have a record of who was going to work. There have been pickets at coach pick-up points. People are frightened to drive their cars across the picket line, so they have been picked up by coaches. There have been pickets at those pick-up points and one was shown on television saying to a man getting on a coach, "You have got to live in Dover for the rest of your life."

Photo of Mr Andrew Stewart Mr Andrew Stewart , Sherwood

I have been listening carefully to my hon. Friend. Will he convey my constituents' sympathies to his constituents? We endured similar circumstances for 12 months, but in the end right prevailed.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

I accept those sympathies on behalf of my constituents. I read the interventions and speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) during debates on the miners' dispute. It is with annoyance and infuriation that I find some aspects of the miners' dispute being used in the seamen's dispute.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

Is the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) saying that he approves of intimidation at coach pick-up points?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

No, I do not; nor does the National Union of Seamen. The police have been in attendance at all those pick-up points and they say that there has been none of the sort of intimidation that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

The hon. Gentleman must wonder why about 100 acts of intimidation are being investigated by the police and why 17 people have been arrested. If the hon. Gentleman looks at some of the videos on television he will see a member of the National Union of Seamen making such remarks as people get on to coaches. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will ensure that people do not picket coaches as people are getting on them.

Many members of the public are asking why the Opposition's motion does not condemn or mention acts of violence and intimidation. Many members of the public will want to know why speeches made by Opposition Members show no care about 81-year-old widows having their homes daubed with paint in the middle of the night. Opposition Members express care for 81-year-olds only during debates that suit them. Many members of the public are asking why the Labour party called on the labour movement to show solidarity in every possible way. Many of my constituents are wondering what that solidarity meant, particularly as that statement was made following acts of violence and intimidation, which have continued since it was made.

Many people are beginning to ask what the Labour party has done in this dispute. Has it helped to solve it? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has it issued statements condemning violence? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has it supported Sealink employees who have been prevented from working by secondary action? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has it supported the 1,100 seamen who want to work? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has it supported the 700 officers, and their union, who want to work? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has it supported the many trade unionists who want a secret ballot? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] What has the Labour party done? [HON. MEMBERS: "Nothing."' No, it has done something. It has used the dispute to fight the leadership election for the Labour party. Eight Labour Members—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. Noise prolongs speeches.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

At least eight Labour Members have been on the picket lines. They have been noticed by Labour supporters in my constituency. One may wonder what is happening to those Labour supporters in my constituency. My agent is receiving telephone calls from them and they are saying that they will never vote for the Labour party again.

In 1966 the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Hafer) used some moderate words and said that disputes should be handled with care and moderation. Why do Labour Members go on the picket lines and use words such as, "War", "Struggle" and "the need for victory"? The needs of my constituents are to get back to work, to be free to work, to be free of violence and intimidation, to allow our shopkeepers and small business men to return to normal trading and to keep the port of Dover open and the ferry industry going. I hope that the Government will support those needs, because, if they do so, my constituents and those of other hon. Members will benefit and the only losers will be those who do not want a settlement.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield 5:55 pm, 11th May 1988

I now understand why P and O put £100,000 into the Tory party. It has received very good value from the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw). He told the House how he took every query raised by the seamen to the company and took the company's argument back. Apparently, seamen do not need a trade union because the hon. Gentleman will look after their interests, wherever they are in the world. They need only make a telephone call to the hon. Gentleman. P and O made a wise choice in picking the hon. Member for Dover. His speech was quite appropriate for a car park full of readers of The Sun, and no doubt those are the people who will follow it tomorrow.

One of the most odious aspects of the debate is that, after all the phoney patriotism of the Tory party about our seafarers during the Falklands war, and all that we as a nation owe to the seafarers who took part in the convoys during the last war, the true interests of seafarers should be treated with such contempt by the party that allows the Union Jack to flutter over its conferences.

We are discussing the safety of passengers, and nothing that has been said or done by Ministers responsible for safety at sea has been adequate, given the loss of life in the Zeebrugge disaster. The manager responsible for the Chernobyl power station was imprisoned following the death of people there, but there has been no appropriate action here, so it is hard to believe that the Government do anything other than share the desire of P and O to maximise its profitability.

When Ministers talk about the right to work—this dispute is about the dismissal of people—it is so hypocritical as not to carry weight with anybody listening outside the House. And if there were a ballot by seafarers on whether they want Sir Jeffrey Sterling to run their company, I have no doubt whatever what the outcome would be.

The debate has a certain quality, because the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), in his role as a kind manager, tried to warn the Front Bench not to be so provocative. We had "a Guardian leading article of a speech" from the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr Bruce). He not only wrote his own speech, but actually read from a Guardian article too. He knows quite well that there is sharp conflict in the House, because the two sides take completely different views about what should be done.

Ministers represent P arid O and its interests. I understand that they employed Sir Jeffrey Sterling to advise on the anti-union legislation. When he became chairman of the company, he put money into the Tory party and enjoyed the benefits of the legislation that he helped to draft with the assistance of judges, who under our curious system are appointed by the Prime Minister.

The Opposition are closely linked to the National Union of Seamen. That union is affiliated to the Labour party because it wants a voice in the House against the sort of Tory party that is facing us. The hon. Member for Dover made a lot of Sam McCluskie being treasurer of the Labour party. That is true, and we are proud of it, but the National Union of Seamen cannot put money into the Labour party without a conference decision being made. Who held a ballot in P and O to authorise Sir Jeffrey Sterling's decision to put money into the Tory party?

It is also true—and I am proud of it—that the Labour party's national executive committee, with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the chair, was unanimous in passing a resolution supporting the NUS and asking others to support it. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) went on the picket line as the Front-Bench spokesman and gave great hope to those who wanted to feel that in the House we spoke for them. In addition, my hon. Friend gave a marvellous presentation in the House today of the seamen's case, bringing out the fact that they want arbitration and a settlement of the dispute. It is against that background that the House must consider what is happening.

What is occurring today is the culmination of a long strategy that the Government have followed to attack and, if possible, to destroy trade unionism in Britain. It began with the readiness to spend £5 billion or £6 billion trying to defeat the miners and printers. It was followed by the use of the phoney argument of security to get rid of all the trade unions at GCHQ, under American pressure. How one is safer if a person who was in a union is not a member any more, I have never understood. If a man would give up his union membership for £1,000, I should have thought that that might throw doubt on his commitment to the security of the state. But that was done by threat. Then the Government fully supported Ford in trying to force upon the car workers in Dundee unions which they did not wish to be their representatives.

Now there is full support of P and O and the attempt to destroy the NUS through derecognition by P and O, after a long period of recognition as part of old maritime arrangements. The courts have been used to threaten sequestration if the NUS held a ballot. That has happened after all that we were told about ballots for this and ballots for that. When the NUS wanted a ballot, the judge, no doubt appointed with such an idea in mind, told the union that it would lose its funds if it consulted its members. So much for the hypocritical argument that we heard from the Tory party. The courts have stolen the money that belongs to seamen who are not involved in the dispute. The hon. Member for Eastleigh asked why the dispute should not be limited a bit, but the courts, through the legislation that he supports, have stolen the funds contributed by seamen who have nothing whatever to do with the NUS action.

Those are arguments that are understood outside the House. It amounts to the reimposition of the Combination Acts to make effective trade unionism illegal. The key question for us in the Labour party is how to defeat that strategy. None of my hon. Friends who will speak in the debate expects to have any influence on the Tory party, but we must try to point out to our friends who are in struggle how to win that struggle, because Labour Members want the seafarers to win. Their objective is arbitration. But if it is denied, the purpose of my right hon. and hon. Friends is that the seamen should win against P and O. Let there be no question about that.

The answer is that the seamen's victory will depend upon their own efforts. It will not depend upon speeches that are made in the House. We shall be trounced tonight in the Lobby in accordance with the predictions, just as we were with the computer predictions at the previous general election. But the seafarers have the capacity to win. On the radio at lunchtime I heard an hon. Member saying that the time has come for wiser counsels to prevail. That showed that he recognised, as the hon. Member for Eastleigh recognised, that the seafarers have done very well in getting their case over to the public. Victory also depends on the amount of industrial support that is available to them from other unions. Public support is growing. I read about the lorry drivers putting in their penn'orth, which shows that the Government's legislation is not capable of dealing with the situation.

The seafarers will decide how to run their own strike. It is not for anybody in the House to tell them what to do, and court action will not stop them, for one simple reason. When the unions began, they did not have any money to sequestrate in the first place. If the courts steal the unions' money, they will go on without it because, unlike companies, trade unionism is not measured by the bank balance. It is measured by what is in people's hearts when they feel that their cause is right. One can steal their money and take away their offices and typewriters, but one cannot beat trade unionism by court action. It cannot be done in Poland, and it cannot be done here. That point needs to be made.

When trade unionism began, it was illegal. It was established by breaking unjust laws. I know that nobody in the House likes this to be said, because we sit in a little club and pretend that we gave every liberty to everybody from this Chamber. It is not true. That is why we enjoy the right to worship as we like, the right to have trade unions and the right of men to vote. The Prime Minister would not have been Prime Minister if the suffragettes had not broken the law to force women's suffrage.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood , Wokingham

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

I shall not give way because I am coming to the end of my speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "They do not like it."] Of course the Tory party does not like it.

In the end, the five Employment Acts carried through by the Tory party will be repealed, just as the Taff Vale judgment was repealed by legislation, and just as the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act was repealed by a subsequent Government—

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

I am not giving way, and it is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it appropriate to have a leadership election speech in this debate?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

What really frightens the Tory party is that the Leader of the Opposition is leading a completely united party. That is what it is all about.

The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act was repealed, and the Industrial Relations Act was repealed. I believe that the seafarers' struggle has a better chance of succeeding than that of the miners or the printers, because many other things have happened in the meantime. A parallel has been drawn with the miners. I tell the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) that the miners' support groups, established four years ago, are back in action and have been giving money and support to the seamen in their struggle. The printers are doing the same.

Those who watch the Tory party, with its long pretence of fairness, have also seen the Budget, the social security changes, the poll tax and all the other things that have happened.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

I am not giving way. I am in almost my last sentence.

The Tory party has been critical of the trade union movement for a long time. I looked for the root of some of the arguments and found two quotations. The first is about industrial action: the real intention was to strike a full blow in the face of the State's authority, against the middle classes and against disciplined order". The second quotation speaks of the trade union movement as being used merely as the battering ram for the class war. The first quotation is from Mussolini's autobiography, and the second is from "Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler.

I said in the House the other day—I invite hon. Members and my colleagues to look at it—that weekend speeches by Ministers and the policies that they follow in respect of the trade union movement can be traced right back to what was said in the 1920s and 1930s in Italy and Germany. Combine that with the attack on the Greater London council and on local authorities, and the court protection to deny us the right to read what Peter Wright wrote in "Spycatcher", and one gets a very clear idea of a Government who are set to undermine democratic rights in this country.

And in the struggle for democratic rights, nobody has done more than the trade union movement to win the rights of working people in industry and to build democracy.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test 6:09 pm, 11th May 1988

I have never seen a better demolition job done on the Labour party than that done this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw). He not only answered every point— certainly to my satisfaction—but he carried the fight into the enemy camp, and he had some of the heavies in the Opposition reeling from shock. I congratulate him. As an hon. Member representing a Southampton constituency, I have been worried that secondary picketing might slow down the progress of the port of Southampton. This afternoon we have had a difficulty, of course, with the QE2. I have received a telephone message that all the picketing by the National Union of Seamen to prevent the QE2 from sailing this afternoon has been to no avail. It sailed just after 4 o'clock, and is now beginning to make its return journey to New York. The NUS seems to be losing the battle outside the Dover area.

I have a newspaper cutting about the Canberra. The NUS has pleaded with its members on the Canberra to come out on strike. As the Canberra is a P and O liner, one would have thought that the union would have been successful. Even two coachloads of pickets at the entrance to Southampton docks were prevented from succeeding by a heavy police reinforcement. I do not think that the NUS is obeying the legislation when it brings two coachloads of pickets from another area to prevent a ship sailing from the port of Southampton. It is breaking the law.

The NUS does not seem to mind any more. It has had its money sequestered; it has been shut out of its offices; two Opposition Members have lost their flats; and the whole thing is beginning to look rather nasty for some of its members. Nevertheless, it is still prepared to break the law—and breaking the law it is. The NUS is being found out, not only by the majority of the members of the NUS, but by the British public. Think of the hardship suffered by the British public and also the French citizens who are on holiday here.

Damage is also being caused to our export-import industry that uses the Channel ferries. Think how Opposition Members will crow in a couple of months' time when our import and export figures look distorted. They will say that it is the Government's fault. They will not realise that they need look no further than this rather unfortunate deadlock caused by the National Union of Seamen.

There was some plagiarism this afternoon by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). Hon. Members may recall that a presidential candidate in the United States had to resign because he used a speech given by the Leader of the Opposition. Either the hon. Member for Oldham. West wrote the article attributed to Mr. Sam McCluskie in The Sunday Times on Sunday or it was written by Mr. McCluskie. I heard the hon. Member for Oldham, West on television and this afternoon, and he said, almost word for word, what was contained in that article under the smiling face of Sam McCluskie. Someone has to be using plagiarism to enhance his own speeches. Will the Opposition tell us who wrote the article?

As an hon. Member representing a Southampton constituency, may I say that the difficulty is that, although we no longer have cross-Channel ferries, the National Union of Seamen has been effective enough to stop cross-Channel ferries at the port of Portsmouth. It is not only causing difficulties for visitors to islands such as Jersey and Guernsey, but also people in the transport industry in carrying out their normal trade. There are many such people in Southampton.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said that he was all for complete freedom. He would go on the picket line. He would aid and abet if he could, because that is his way of life and he can see no other way forward, The right hon. Gentleman must realise the terrible harm that would be done if we gave a distorted view to those workers in the NUS or, indeed, to the public.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood , Wokingham

I was sorry that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) would not take my intervention, because I wanted to clarify whether he was saying that, to further this dispute, members of the National Union of Seamen should break the law, and suggesting that judges were biased. I hope that he will withdraw that remark as it is a damaging slur on the fine tradition of neutrality of the law.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

I agree with my hon. Friend. In fact, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield went further. He said that the Government were appointing judges who would do their will and would sequestrate the funds of a union without evidence; the judges would be obedient to the Government. The right hon. Gentleman must know that that is nonsense. That is the politics of the 1930s. The right hon. Gentleman must be answered. I hope that an Opposition Member will answer him because he is getting away with a false argument.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the statement made by a judge, that the NUS must stop pussyfooting about? Does not that show clear bias?

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

Am I seriously being asked whether the Government told a judge to make a statement containing the word "pussyfooting"? The judge must be answerable for his own words. However, there is anxiety about the pattern followed after the sequestration of funds. Advisers of Mr. Scargill are now coming to help. A newspaper headline states: Striking seamen divert cash to beat asset freeze. They are trying to circumvent the law. If they think like the right hon. Gentleman, possibly they will justify it. But the law is the law, and they have broken the law. Until they purge their contempt of court and receive their funds back, they will have to stay in this position.

P and O management and the NUS will not get around the table because of straightforward commercial opposition. The law of the land is straightforward. Although the Government have the Arbitration, Conciliation and Advisory Service to bring both sides together, they will not intervene. If both sides are rigidly opposed, they must slug it out to the end. That is the only way to resolve the dispute. As long as the NUS members realise that their union officials are telling them, "Slug it out to the end, lads; we shall win", because that is the name of the game, it will be a slug to the end. However, I think that the cooler and more intelligent reasoning in the NUS—similar to that on the Canberra and QE2—will gradually prevail, and it will be realised that there must be a meeting of minds about the difficulties of 1992, the possibility of VAT, the removal of duty-free goods and the dangers of the Channel tunnel. The two sides must come together. We cannot let almost historic dinosaur-type trade union quotes decide the issue.

Mr. Eric S. Heifer:

The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) made a very interesting speech, but I trust that the public will not take much notice of it. He referred to the lack of credibility of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). The hon. Member for Dover suggested that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and I were on the picket lines in Dover advocating violence. I was asked by a representative of my local press whether that was true, and I replied, as I cannot reply in this House, that it was a deliberate lie, and that was printed in the local press. I want to make it absolutely clear that no one has been talking about violence on the picket lines. Reference has been made to intimidation. What about the intimidation of workers in the National Union of Seamen who have been told to accept the conditions and sign, or they will be sacked? Is that not intimidation?

The hon. Member for Dover referred to those who had agreed to the conditions and said that 5,000 people had applied for jobs. I am surprised at that. With 2·5 million or 3 million people unemployed in this country, I am amazed that only 5,000 applied for the jobs. I should not have been surprised if 50,000 had applied. The level of unemployment is being used as a weapon against the trade union movement and workers who are trying to maintain decent conditions which they have negotiated over the years.

Photo of Mr Keith Mans Mr Keith Mans , Wyre

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

No, I will not give way.

The hon. Member for Dover made several other points. He was kind enough to refer to a speech that I made in the House in 1966 when the National Union of Seamen held an official strike. I recall my speech very well. My Front-Bench colleagues at the time were talking about a small group of politically motivated men running the official strike. I explained that there was another group of politically motivated men and women in No. 10 Downing street. I believed then that the NUS was right, and I have a right to say that.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East is aware, there was a great unofficial strike in 1960. For my sins, together with the then hon. Member for Bootle, Mr. Simon Mahon, I was asked to be a mediator by the Liverpool Trades Council and the Labour party. We were not asked to mediate between the employers and the union, because the real mediation had to take place between the rank and file of the union and the union leadership.

There was a great surge at the time among the membership. They wanted to create a new union. We said that they should not do that, but should remain in the union and fight to democratise it. They democratised it and made it one of the most democratic unions in this country. They did not need legislation to introduce ballots. They created a democratic organisation and got rid of the leadership, which I believe was in the pockets of the employers at the time. They made it one of the most democratic unions in the country, and that is what it remains.

The hon. Member for Dover referred to the blue book and the red book. I did not see the blue book, but I have seen the red one. If the red book is an improvement on the blue book, God help us. I can understand why NUS members are not prepared to accept the red book. Those who have accepted it have done so under pressure.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

Pressure of dismissal.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

That is right. They are worried about their future.

Do those hon. Members who have never put their hands to any employment believe that the workers go on strike because they want to? Do they honestly believe that workers are only too happy to lose their wages and go home to their wives and say, "I am sorry, love. I am not bringing in any money at the end of the week"? Do hon. Members believe that the workers in this country are stupid?

Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay

No, but the hon. Gentleman is.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I know about this because I have worked in industry and the hon. Lady has not. That is the difference.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

No, I will not withdraw it, because it is true. I have already received abuse from the hon. Member for Dover and many others.

I watched the faces of people such as Dunlop on television. Anyone who has watched Dunlop on television knows who is backing him. He is being backed by the Government and their legislation. That is the truth of the matter.

The trade union movement and the NUS in particular at this juncture are fighting for their very existence. The trade union movement is threatened by the Government's anti-trade union legislation, which is the worst in Europe and rather like Jaruzelski's legislation in Poland. Conservative Members are brave and support the rights of Polish workers to have trade unions, but when it comes to our trade unions, it is a different story. I believe that Solidarity has a right to exist in Poland. Because I live in this country, I defend the rights of our workers to have the democratic organisation which Conservative Members do not accept and in which they cannot believe.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East answered the point about the secret ballot. The NUS was prepared to have another ballot, but it was taken to court, and that stopped the ballot. Conservative Members are only too well aware of that.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

I agree with my hon. Friend that many Conservative Members are neo-Fascists—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman is aware that that is not a parliamentary expression. Please will he withdraw it and say something else?

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

I understand that to call Conservative Members Fascists is out of order. However, I understand that Mr. Speaker has ruled previously—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that he must not argue with the Chair. Will he withdraw the expression?

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

For the purposes of the debate, and in pursuance of the advocacy of my colleagues, I will withdraw that expression. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is aware of the extreme political Right-wing views of Conservative Members. Does he accept that it is sickening hypocrisy for a succession of Conservative Members to claim that the Government will not intervene in the dispute because it is a commercial issue, while the Prime Minister has on at least six occasions since January met Sir Jeffrey Sterling, the owner of P and O? Is that non-intervention?

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. I heard a Minister on the radio this morning discussing the issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I was not surprised by what the Minister said, but it was remarkable how he repeatedly stated that it was nothing to do with the Government. He said that the Government could not intervene. Previous Tory Governments, even the Heath Government—if I may use that expression—were prepared on occasion to intervene in the national interest. Instead, the Government equate the national interest with the class interest of those whom they represent. That is their national interest. It has nothing to do with any real national interest.

I support the motion. It is not the greatest motion in the world, and it does not necessarily say everything that I would want it to say, but it is important in the sense that it raises all the important issues. It should he supported even by Conservative Members. They should have sufficient interest in the future of the shipping industry to realise that they should support the motion.

I use the Channel ferries regularly when travelling from Dover to France. I use that general term because there are ports other than Calais. I am interested particularly in safety. How can the Government say that they are concerned about safety when the numbers of seamen will be reduced? If they are really concerned about the safety of passengers, they must be concerned also about crew numbers. That must follow if they are to ensure that there is genuine safety. That is the real issue, apart from the future of the National Union of Seamen.

The Government are dodging their responsibility of ensuring that there is safety for the passengers and crews of the future. They are dodging also their responsibility to the shipping industry generally and to the ferries in particular.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) talked about seamen working an 18-hour day, and about rest periods. What will be the consequences for safety if seamen work an 18-hour uninterrupted shift? Will my hon. Friend spell out the implications to the House?

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I think that my hon. Friend has done that in implied terms in making that intervention. I believe that he is right.

I referred the other day to the port manager of Heysham harbour cutting a rope of the Tynwald with a chainsaw on 30 April while that vessel was berthed at Heysham. I received a written answer from a Department of Employment Minister, part of which I shall read. It states: I have been asked to reply. No. The Merchant Shipping Act did not apply to the incident referred. On the information available neither the ship, its crew nor any person ashore were endangered by the action of the harbour master and there was no contravention of any legal requirement."—[Official Report, 9 May 1988; Vol. 133, c. 22.] I also received a letter from Sea Containers, which was written by none other than the public affairs manager. I shall not quote the entire letter, which I would describe as a whitewash. Part of it reads: The Tynwald was secured by six ropes (three at each end of the ship). There are two head ropes, two stern ropes and two spring ropes (one at the forehead and one aft). Incidentally, I was being told to suck eggs, because one knows about these matters after working on a line of docks for a long time. The letter continues: The port master cut the forehead spring rope and was proceeding to cut the head rope when the ship's master instructed him to stop. The third rope also went slack and then the other ropes were released. The ship moved from one berth to another under its own power and thus this became a normal manoeuvre from berth to berth.

So a normal manoeuvre involves the cutting of ropes. I have never heard anything like it. The Government are not prepared to take action against an illegal act. Their response shows that they consider themselves to be above the law. However, when the NUS takes legitimate action and organises secondary pickets, it is made clear that it is not above the law. That proves our case and makes it clear where the Government stand.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North 6:35 pm, 11th May 1988

This has been a debate of some passion. That is understandable because we are dealing with issues of great concern to hon. Members and to those whom we represent. I urge Conservative Members to buy a copy of the tape recording of these proceedings. They should listen to themselves chanting in unison with the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw). If they do that, they will hear echoes of Nuremberg and they will be ashamed of themselves.

It is regrettable that the Secretary of State for Employment said that he would say nothing new. Unfortunately, that was true. More is the pity. He should have said something new.

There is no doubt that the genesis of the dispute lies in the Channel tunnel. We have all known from the beginning that there would be difficulties. We argued that there should be proper arrangements for the ferries, including competition checks. The Government told us that everything would be sorted out if the issue were left to market forces. That is why we are landed in this mess.

There has been great apprehension in the ferry fleets, and most of it has been stoked up by the owners. They have emphasised the dangers facing the ferries, the number of jobs that will have to go and the problems that will be faced. The apprehension has been fostered by the owners. The NUS understands that changes will be required. There is a general agreement that jobs will have to go, but it is with great reluctance that that has been acceped by the union. We have a dispute because P and O has insisted repeatedly that the changes must take place by March. This has precluded any proper period of phasing.

An emotionally charged issue in an emotionally charged area has been made all the more difficult by the fact that Sealink stepped in and said that, if P and O got its way, it, Sealink, would develop the same conditions. That was a secondary threat. It is not for us to take lessons from Conservative Members on secondary action when threats are being made by other ferry owners.

The problem is compounded by the difficulties that are created by industrial relations legislation. The law has not helped in any sense to stabilise matters. If the parties to an industrial dispute find themselves in the legal arena, there is no sensible way out of it. The Government do not understand solidarity action within trade unions. They do not understand the loyalty of members to their unions. The Government live in ignorance of the fact that industrial disputes have their own momentum and dynamism. They refuse to recognise that what is required of them is some form of conciliation and arbitration.

There are those who take a charitable view of the Secretary of State for Employment and say that he would like to be tempted by the forbidden fruit of conciliation but he is afraid to let that happen in case he succeeds, finds that conciliation works and gets a taste for it. He knows that if that happened he would be taken to No. 10 Downing street and sent on a long march to purgatory, either to Northern Ireland or to the loneliness of the Government Back Benches. That is the problem.

There are less charitable people, some of whom are realists. I am one of those realists, and I believe that conciliation is anathema to the Government. They think that the right to manage means that might is right. Their view is that, no matter who is harmed in the process and irrespective of the damage that is done to the nation, industrial disputes must be resolved by a trial of strength. In ordinary circumstances, that would be bad enough, but in this instance the Secretary of State should surely have a restraining influence on the Secretary of State for Employment. His constant theme over the past 14 months—ever since the Zeebrugge disaster—is that safety is paramount. We have been told that safety comes first.

It is a disgrace that, whenever safety has been mentioned this evening, Conservative Members have sniggered or laughed. They did not laugh and snigger 14 months ago when tributes were being paid to seamen for saving lives in the Zeebrugge disaster. They did not laugh and snigger when seamen gave of their best in the Falklands dispute. All of that has been forgotten. Conservative Members did not laugh and snigger either when the "Brass Tacks" programme was mentioned. I concede to the Secretary of State that he has written to me to say that there will be a rigorous inquiry. I hope that it will concentrate on safety. Nowhere in the P and O proposals is there any assessment of the safety aspects of the new crewing proposals. That is not to be found in the red book, in the blue book, or anywhere else.

Nor has there been any assessment of the consequences of fatigue in respect of reaction time. In 1982 the Department of Transport was concerned about fatigue among watch keepers and said that it would study the subject. But nothing has happened since 1982, apart from pious words. Are our memories so short? Have our memories of Zeebrugge been dulled by other disasters? Have our recollections been blunted by the fact that Zeebrugge was followed by the King's Cross disaster, as is suggested in the newspapers today? How can the Secretary of State for Transport be sure that the safety conditions are so good that he can put his name to the Government amendment?

The Secretary of State might do well to look back on his pious words of the day after the King's Cross disaster, and to his complacent remarks about how safety was paramount in London Transport. However, if he reads the inquiry evidence, he will learn that safety conditions were not as he described them to be. In the light of that evidence, the Minister should be more careful about dismissing safety and the dangers of fatigue among seamen.

The Secretary of State must bear in mind that this is not the end of the story, whatever may happen in respect of the P and O dispute. What we are afraid of, and what we cannot afford, is a job auction among ferry operators in the North sea. P and O say that one of the main reasons why it wants to alter crewing conditions is that that will double the company's profits. What will happen in two years? The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) gave the game away. He said that at least the deal was available for two years. What will happen after that if P and O and Sealink, as well as other operators, discover that their profits are not as large as they once thought? Will crew members be reduced yet again? Will even longer working hours be imposed on the grounds that it is only efficiency and profit that matter? If the Secretary of State believes that that is the way to deal with matters, he is living in a fool's paradise.

The greatest irony of all is that the ports are being blocked not by the National Union of Seamen or by the Transport and General Workers Union but by freelance truck drivers. They are all friends of Mrs. Thatcher, saying that they do not support the NUS and that they are not in favour of strikes. They say also that they want the dispute to be settled. Had those freelance truck drivers been union members, Ron Todd would have been in court today and the TGWU would have had its funds sequestered. What will the Government do about those lorry drivers? I ask the Secretary of State that question, but he remains silent because he does not know the answer.

If those truck drivers had been TGWU members, practically every newspaper would have carried banner headlines about hooliganism and intimidation. Instead of that—I do not want to overdraw the case—it seems that they are being held up as heroes. The industrial relations law has no relevance or meaning in respect of the way in which those lorry drivers choose to deal with the situation, and we do not know how the Government intend to react.

The lorry drivers are clearly saying that they want negotiations restarted and the dispute settled by discussion and negotiation. That is a common refrain among both lorry drivers and the National Union of Seamen. It is a common refrain even among P and O shareholders. They are also saying that negotiations should be restarted or that the dispute should be sent to arbitration. Everyone is willing to go to arbitration, and certainly the NUS is willing. The only people who appear to be standing back are Sir Jeffrey Sterling and the Government. All the voices that have been raised in this matter and all the newspaper articles are saying that they want the matter to be settled by negotiation. It is true that ACAS has been in touch from time to time during the past 14 weeks. However, there is a significant difference between an ACAS that is working with the enthusiastic support of the Government and an ACAS that is working in the face of sustained Government hostility to conciliation. The dispute could be quickly resolved if only the Government would have the sense to deal with it by conciliation.

Is there anyone in the Cabinet who has the vision and the courage to understand what is happening? Is there anyone in the Cabinet who remembers our debt to the seafarers of the Falklands and Zeebrugge? Is there anyone in the Cabinet with the courage to stand for justice and who appreciates that the dispute can be resolved if only they had the vision to intervene? I hope that someone will be prepared to take up that challenge. If no one in the Cabinet is prepared to do so, I ask the House to take up that challenge. I ask the House to vote for our motion so that the dispute may be settled in the best possible way, which is by reconciliation and conciliation to the benefit of all those involved, including the seamen and the people of Dover. The House will do a great service to the nation if it passes our motion.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West 6:46 pm, 11th May 1988

I can start by telling the House some good news, which is pleasing—and it will be particularly pleasing to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). The information that I have just been given is that National Union of Seamen members employed on oil rig supply ships will be instructed by their union tomorrow to return to work. I am told that that undertaking was made at Edinburgh quarter sessions today. That is one dispute which will be out of the way, and I hope that it is a precedent for other disputes. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), the seamen's dispute is with P and O European Ferries and not with other people.

In the short time available to me I shall concentrate on the issue that has dominated practically every speech from both sides of the House, safety, for which I have direct responsibility. Those who are worried about the safety of the present P and O service have voiced three main anxieties. They say that crew numbers are being reduced to unacceptable levels; that untrained crews are being employed; and that crews are being asked to work unreasonably long hours. I can reassure the House on all three points.

The revised crew complement, including officers, for the two ships presently sailing—the Pride of Bruges and the Pride of Kent—complies with all the statutory manning level requirements. Those deal with the numbers and qualifications of officers to be carried on a ship. They specify also the number of crew members to be on board who have to be certificated as proficient in the operation and use of survival craft. They require the owner to ensure that there are sufficient qualified ratings to permit the master and chief engineer to organise the watch keeping arrangement with proper regard to the need for rest periods.

The revised complement meets all those statutory requirements. P and O has sought and obtained from my Department a safe manning certificate that specifies the minimum number of officers and ratings considered necessary for the safe running of the ship. The revised complement complies with the terms of the certificate.

The safe manning of a ship is not just a matter of having the correct number of crew on board; it is also a question of deploying them effectively. That is the crucial point. Therefore, a reduction in manning levels does not lead to a reduction in safety standards. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) reminded the House on Monday that the NUS itself is not opposed to P and O's proposals on reduced manning levels. The disagreement between the company and the union relates to the timetable for achieving those reductions. The union is prepared, over a period of years, to accept reductions. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. Either the revised crewing arrangements are safe or they are not. If they are safe, as my Department is satisfied that they are, they can be introduced. Delay may be attractive to the NUS for many reasons, but safety is not one of them. If the ships will be safe in three years' time, one cannot argue that safety is the cause of the present dispute.

It has been suggested that untrained crews are being employed. The vessels have the proper complement of qualified officers on board and the requisite number of certificated seafarers, so the suggestion that crews are untrained is wrong. Many crew members have experience in ferries; others are new recruits to P and O but are experienced seafarers.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West criticised the work of my surveyors over the past few days. They have made a comprehensive inspection of each ship and have watched each crew implementing the revised emergency procedures and safety drills: the muster drills, the fire-fighting procedures and the lifeboat drills. The inspections were made and the drills were witnessed before the ships left their lay-up berths in Rotterdam, and the drills were witnessed again when the crews were changed at Dover. On each occasion, my surveyors were satisfied that the requisite numbers of qualified personnel were on board and that they were properly trained in all the relevant procedures. If and when further P and O ships are brought back into service, the same rigorous inspections will be made, so that that form of scaremongering is wholly irresponsible.

I can assure the House that the letter and spirit of the law were complied with; and I can also assure the House that the crews of these ships have proved to my surveyors that they are able to put their training into practice if ever the need should unfortunately arise.

The last anxiety about safety relates to the length of hours worked. As I understand it, the length of shifts worked under the new manning arrangements being introduced by P and O are as follows. Ratings on ferries to Calais work 12-hour shifts. Ratings on ferries to Zeebrugge and Boulogne are on board ship for 24-hour shifts. That, as my hon. Friends have said, is a pattern already in use on cross-Channel ferries on a number of routes. Such ratings usually have 14 hours on duty and 10 hours off. Officers work 12-hour shifts, as they have done for many years.

My surveyors are fully satisfied—this point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw)—that the crewing arrangements permit watch keeping duties to be undertaken without risk of fatigue. Perhaps before finishing with this subject I should remind the House that P and O seafarers spend 24 hours on ship for 122 days a year. They are present at their place of work for the equivalent of two and a half days a week; and they are actually on duty for the equivalent of fewer than one and a half days a week. I leave it to the House to decide whether these arrangements are excessively fatiguing.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

They are indeed true.

Before leaving the issue of safety, I turn to the references made to "Brass Tacks" and to other criticisms of ferry safety. I wrote to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North about them a few days ago. A former employee of P and O alleged that one of its vessels sailed last August with a deck crew of 11, against a complement of 17. That allegation is now being fully investigated. I cannot yet say whether it is true or whether any offence has been committed. If an offence has been committed, appropriate action will be taken. It is very unfortunate that such an allegation was not made until nine months after the event. The criticisms are serious ones. If they are true, why were they not made earlier? Why were they made in the middle of an industrial dispute rather than a few days after the alleged event? However, the delay will not prevent us from establishing the facts of the matter. They will be fully investigated and I can assure the House that appropriate action will be taken.

The blockade by the lorry drivers is a serious source of disruption, although I hope that the talks today will bring a breakthrough. I can well understand the frustration of the lorry drivers, which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh pointed out. None of us can condone the form that their action has taken. The drivers have made their point. Their action is not helping to resolve the dispute; they are causing an obstruction; and they have been warned by Dover harbour board that legal action is possible.

Above all, truckers, seafarers and all involved in the dispute should reflect on the long-term implications of their actions. The Channel tunnel will be completed in 1993. If transport by road and ferry is to compete with the tunnel, it will have to do so on price and reliability. Do hon. Members imagine that the events of the past few weeks have enhanced the reputation of the ferries or the likelihood of their being able to compete effectively with the Channel tunnel? The House must judge the wisdom of these actions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh said, it is doubtful whether a debate in the House during a delicate industrial dispute such as this will help.

Opposition Members stated a number of things over and over again in the debate—especially the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). It will be utterly clear to anyone who has heard the debate or who reads reports of it that the Labour party has in no way shaken off its anachronistic view of the British economy. We are no longer living in the subsidised 1970s; we are living in the efficient 1980s. Competitiveness and efficiency count now. These, together with safety, are the features that are required if a public service is to function effectively. No one should be under any illusion about the attitude of the Labour party in the debate. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)—we have heard all the Opposition leadership candidates today—has said: The whole history of the Labour movement emphasises the need to ally politically with industrial action". The most alarming feature of the debate has been the irresponsible behaviour of the Opposition. Regular appearances on the picket lines and inflammatory speeches this evening have been their contribution. Do they think that all this will help to achieve a speedily negotiated settlement of the dispute? The right hon. Member for Chesterfield was honest enough not to pretend that the debate would make any difference—he said it would not—and that what happened outside the House was what mattered. However, if anyone is influenced by what we say in the House tonight, I urge hon. Members to face up to their responsibilities when advising people outside the House. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield may not become the leader of the Labour party, but it is clear that his ideas are still prevalent within it on issues of this sort.

This strike and the attitude of the Labour party are living proof that these attitudes have not yet died. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dover pointed out, in the past few weeks at Dover there have been 103 reports of intimidation and 17 arrests. In this debate, not one member of the Labour party criticised that intimidation or suggested that the unions should obey the law. Not one of them believes in the rule of law. Do not the Opposition recognise that people have the right to work without fear or intimidation? The Labour party puts the right to strike above the right to work. It appears that Opposition Members do not believe in the rule of law when it does not suit them. They blame the judges, or anyone else.

The Labour party should stop fuelling the dispute with promises of solidarity or of a special strike fund. The time has come for Opposition Members to use their influence with the NUS to tell it to respect the laws of the land. Why do they not condemn secondary picketing and law breakers? Why do they not condemn the continuation of outdated working practices that cost the nation and workers dear? The Labour party is acting against the interests of those it pretends to represent. I ask the House to reject this ridiculous motion so that we may get a sensible result to the dispute—not one motivated by the outdated ideological ideas of the Labour party, which have been shown so clearly in the debate.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 205, Noes 317.

Division No. 298][7 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeCunliffe, Lawrence
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Cunningham, Dr John
Allen, GrahamDalyell, Tam
Anderson, DonaldDarling, Alistair
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ashton, JoeDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Dewar, Donald
Barron, KevinDixon, Don
Battle, JohnDobson, Frank
Beckett, MargaretDoran, Frank
Bell, StuartDouglas, Dick
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDunnachie, Jimmy
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Eadie, Alexander
Bermingham, GeraldEastham, Ken
Bidwell, SydneyEvans, John (St Helens N)
Blair, TonyEwing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Boateng, PaulFatchett, Derek
Boyes, RolandFaulds, Andrew
Bradley, KeithField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bray, Dr JeremyFisher, Mark
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Flynn, Paul
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Buchan, NormanFoster, Derek
Buckley, George J.Foulkes, George
Caborn, RichardFraser, John
Callaghan, JimFyfe, Maria
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Galloway, George
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Canavan, DennisGarrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)George, Bruce
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clay, BobGodman, Dr Norman A.
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGordon, Mildred
Cohen, HarryGould, Bryan
Coleman, DonaldGraham, Thomas
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Corbyn, JeremyGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cousins, JimGrocott, Bruce
Cox, TomHardy, Peter
Crowther, StanHarman, Ms Harriet
Cryer, BobHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cummings, JohnHaynes, Frank
NOES
Aitken, JonathanBarnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Alexander, RichardBatiste, Spencer
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Allason, RupertBellingham, Henry
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBendall, Vivian
Amess, DavidBennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Amos, AlanBenyon, W.
Arbuthnot, JamesBevan, David Gilroy
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Blackburn, Dr John G.
Aspinwall, JackBlaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkins, RobertBody, Sir Richard
Atkinson, DavidBonsor, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Boswell, Tim
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Bottomley, Peter
Baldry, TonyBottomley, Mrs Virginia
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Heffer, Eric S.O'Neill, Martin
Henderson, DougOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hinchliffe, DavidParry, Robert
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Patchett, Terry
Holland, StuartPendry, Tom
Home Robertson, JohnPike, Peter L.
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Prescott, John
Hoyle, DougPrimarolo, Dawn
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Radice, Giles
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Randall, Stuart
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Redmond, Martin
Illsley, EricRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Ingram, AdamReid, Dr John
Janner, GrevilleRichardson, Jo
John, BrynmorRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Robertson, George
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Robinson, Geoffrey
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Rogers, Allan
Lambie, DavidRooker, Jeff
Lamond, JamesRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Leadbitter, TedRowlands, Ted
Leighton, RonRuddock, Joan
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Salmond, Alex
Lewis, TerrySedgemore, Brian
Litherland, RobertSheerman, Barry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lofthouse, GeoffreyShore, Rt Hon Peter
Loyden, EddieSkinner, Dennis
McAllion, JohnSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McAvoy, ThomasSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Macdonald, Calum A.Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
McFall, JohnSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)Snape, Peter
McKelvey, WilliamSoley, Clive
McLeish, HenrySpearing, Nigel
McTaggart, BobStott, Roger
McWilliam, JohnStrang, Gavin
Madden, MaxStraw, Jack
Mahon, Mrs AliceTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marek, Dr JohnThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Turner, Dennis
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Wall, Pat
Martlew, EricWalley, Joan
Maxton, JohnWarden, Gareth (Gower)
Meacher, MichaelWareing, Robert N.
Meale, AlanWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Millan, Rt Hon BruceWigley, Dafydd
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Moonie, Dr LewisWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Morgan, RhodriWinnick, David
Morley. ElliottWise, Mrs Audrey
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Mullin, ChrisTellers for the Ayes:
Murphy, PaulMr. Alun Michael and
Nellist, DaveMrs. Llin Golding.
O'Brien, William
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Grist, Ian
Bowis, JohnGround, Patrick
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGrylls, Michael
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHampson, Dr Keith
Brazier, JulianHannam, John
Bright, GrahamHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHarris, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Haselhurst, Alan
Browne, John (Winchester)Hawkins, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hayes, Jerry
Buck, Sir AntonyHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Burt, AlistairHayward, Robert
Butcher, JohnHeathcoat-Amory, David
Butler, ChrisHeddle, John
Butterfill, JohnHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carrington, MatthewHill, James
Carttiss, MichaelHind, Kenneth
Cartwright, JohnHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cash, WilliamHolt, Richard
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHordern, Sir Peter
Chapman, SydneyHoward, Michael
Chope, ChristopherHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Churchill, MrHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Colvin, MichaelHunter, Andrew
Conway, DerekHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Irvine, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Irving, Charles
Cope, JohnJack, Michael
Cormack, PatrickJanman, Tim
Couchman, JamesJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cran, JamesJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Critchley, JulianJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Curry, DavidKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Key, Robert
Davis, David (Boothferry)Kilfedder, James
Day, StephenKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Devlin, TimKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Dickens, GeoffreyKirkhope, Timothy
Dicks, TerryKnapman, Roger
Dorrell, StephenKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Dover, DenKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Dunn, BobKnowles, Michael
Durant, TonyKnox, David
Emery, Sir PeterLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Latham, Michael
Fallon, MichaelLawrence, Ivan
Farr, Sir JohnLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fenner, Dame PeggyLee, John (Pendle)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, NigelLightbown, David
Forth, EricLilley, Peter
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fox, Sir MarcusLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Franks, CecilLord, Michael
Freeman, RogerLyell, Sir Nicholas
French, DouglasMcCrindle, Robert
Fry, PeterMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Gardiner, GeorgeMcLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, TristanMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Gill, ChristopherMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMadel, David
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMalins, Humfrey
Goodlad, AlastairMans, Keith
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMaples, John
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMarland, Paul
Gorst, JohnMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Gow, IanMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gower, Sir RaymondMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Mates, Michael
Gregory, ConalMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Mellor, DavidSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Meyer, Sir AnthonySpeller, Tony
Miller, HalSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Mills, IainSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Miscampbell, NormanSquire, Robin
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Stanbrook, Ivor
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Stanley, Rt Hon John
Moate, RogerSteen, Anthony
Montgomery, Sir FergusStern, Michael
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Stevens, Lewis
Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Moss, MalcolmStokes, John
Moynihan, Hon ColinStradling Thomas, Sir John
Mudd, DavidSumberg, David
Neale, GerrardSummerson, Hugo
Nelson, AnthonyTapsell, Sir Peter
Neubert, MichaelTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Newton, Rt Hon TonyTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Nicholls, PatrickTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Temple-Morris, Peter
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Oppenheim, PhillipThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidThorne, Neil
Page, RichardThurnham, Peter
Paice, JamesTownend, John (Bridlington)
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Patnick, IrvineTracey, Richard
Patten, John (Oxford W)Tredinnick, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyTrippier, David
Pawsey, JamesTrotter, Neville
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTwinn, Dr Ian
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Porter, David (Waveney)Viggers, Peter
Portillo, MichaelWaddington, Rt Hon David
Price, Sir DavidWakeham, Rt Hon John
Raffan, KeithWaldegrave, Hon William
Redwood, JohnWalden, George
Renton, TimWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Rhodes James, RobertWaller, Gary
Riddick, GrahamWalters, Dennis
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWard, John
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Warren, Kenneth
Roe, Mrs MarionWatts, John
Rossi, Sir HughWells, Bowen
Rost, PeterWhitney, Ray
Rowe, AndrewWiddecombe, Ann
Rumbold, Mrs AngelaWiggin, Jerry
Ryder, RichardWilkinson, John
Sackville, Hon TomWilshire, David
Sainsbury, Hon TimWinterton, Mrs Ann
Sayeed, JonathanWinterton, Nicholas
Scott, NicholasWolfson, Mark
Shaw, David (Dover)Wood, Timothy
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Woodcock, Mike
Shelton, William (Streatham)Yeo, Tim
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Younger, Rt Hon George
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Shersby, MichaelTellers for the Noes:
Sims, RogerMr. Robert Boscawen and
Skeet, Sir TrevorMr. Kenneth Carlisle.
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 305, Noes 217.

Division No. 299][7.12 pm
AYES
Aitken, JonathanAmos, Alan
Alexander, RichardArbuthnot, James
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelArnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Allason, RupertArnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianAspinwall, Jack
Amess, DavidAtkins, Robert
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeBarron, Kevin
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Battle, John
Allen, GrahamBeckett, Margaret
Alton, DavidBeith, A. J.
Anderson, DonaldBell, Stuart
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBenn, Rt Hon Tony
Ashton, JoeBennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Bermingham, Gerald
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Bidwell, Sydney
Atkinson, DavidFranks, Cecil
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Freeman, Roger
Baldry, TonyFrench, Douglas
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Fry, Peter
Batiste, SpencerGardiner, George
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyGill, Christopher
Bellingham, HenryGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bendall, VivianGoodhart, Sir Philip
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Goodlad, Alastair
Benyon, W.Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bevan, David GilroyGorman, Mrs Teresa
Blackburn, Dr John G.Gorst, John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGow, Ian
Body, Sir RichardGower, Sir Raymond
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Boswell, TimGregory, Conal
Bottomley, PeterGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGrist, Ian
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Ground, Patrick
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Grylls, Michael
Bowis, JohnHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesHampson, Dr Keith
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardHannam, John
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Brazier, JulianHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Bright, GrahamHarris, David
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonHaselhurst, Alan
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHawkins, Christopher
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hayes, Jerry
Browne, John (Winchester)Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hayward, Robert
Buck, Sir AntonyHeathcoat-Amory, David
Burt, AlistairHeddle, John
Butcher, JohnHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Butler, ChrisHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Butterfill, JohnHill, James
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hind, Kenneth
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Carrington, MatthewHolt, Richard
Carttiss, MichaelHoward, Michael
Cash, WilliamHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Chapman, SydneyHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Chope, ChristopherHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Churchill, MrHunt, David (Wirral W)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hunter, Andrew
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Irvine, Michael
Colvin, MichaelIrving, Charles
Conway, DerekJack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Janman, Tim
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cope, JohnJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Cormack, PatrickJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Couchman, JamesKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Cran, JamesKey, Robert
Critchley, JulianKilfedder, James
Currie, Mrs EdwinaKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Curry, DavidKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Kirkhope, Timothy
Davis, David (Boothferry)Knapman, Roger
Day, StephenKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Devlin, TimKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Dickens, GeoffreyKnowles, Michael
Dicks, TerryKnox, David
Dorrell, StephenLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dunn, BobLatham, Michael
Durant, TonyLawrence, Ivan
Emery, Sir PeterLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Lee, John (Pendle)
Fallon, MichaelLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Farr, Sir JohnLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fenner, Dame PeggyLightbown, David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Lilley, Peter
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Forman, NigelLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forth, EricLord, Michael
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanLyell, Sir Nicholas
Fox, Sir MarcusMacfarlane, Sir Neil
McLoughlin, PatrickShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Shersby, Michael
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Sims, Roger
Madel, DavidSkeet, Sir Trevor
Malins, HumfreySmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Mans, KeithSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maples, JohnSpeller, Tony
Marland, PaulSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Squire, Robin
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Stanbrook, Ivor
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStanley, Rt Hon John
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickSteen, Anthony
Mellor, DavidStern, Michael
Meyer, Sir AnthonyStevens, Lewis
Miller, HalStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mills, IainStokes, John
Miscampbell, NormanStradling Thomas, Sir John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Sumberg, David
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Summerson, Hugo
Montgomery, Sir FergusTapsell, Sir Peter
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Moss, MalcolmTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Moynihan, Hon ColinTemple-Morris, Peter
Mudd, DavidThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Neale, GerrardThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Nelson, AnthonyThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Neubert, MichaelThorne, Neil
Newton, Rt Hon TonyThurnham, Peter
Nicholls, PatrickTownend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Tracey, Richard
Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyTredinnick, David
Oppenheim, PhillipTrippier, David
Page, RichardTrotter, Neville
Paice, JamesTwinn, Dr Ian
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilVaughan, Sir Gerard
Patnick, IrvineViggers, Peter
Patten, John (Oxford W)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWakeham, Rt Hon John
Pawsey, JamesWaldegrave, Hon William
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWalden, George
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Porter, David (Waveney)Waller, Gary
Portillo, MichaelWalters, Dennis
Price, Sir DavidWard, John
Raffan, KeithWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Redwood, JohnWarren, Kenneth
Renton, TimWatts, John
Rhodes James, RobertWells, Bowen
Riddick, GrahamWhitney, Ray
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWiddecombe, Ann
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWiggin, Jerry
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Wilkinson, John
Roe, Mrs MarionWilshire, David
Rossi, Sir HughWinterton, Mrs Ann
Rost, PeterWinterton, Nicholas
Rowe, AndrewWolfson, Mark
Ryder, RichardWood, Timothy
Sackville, Hon TomWoodcock, Mike
Sainsbury, Hon TimYeo, Tim
Sayeed, JonathanYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Scott, NicholasYounger, Rt Hon George
Shaw, David (Dover)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Tellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Shelton, William (Streatham)Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Blair, TonyHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Boateng, PaulHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Boyes, RolandHowells, Geraint
Bradley, KeithHoyle, Doug
Bray, Dr JeremyHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Buchan, NormanHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Buckley, George J.Illsley, Eric
Caborn, RichardIngram, Adam
Callaghan, JimJanner, Greville
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)John, Brynmor
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Canavan, DennisJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Kennedy, Charles
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Kirkwood, Archy
Clay, BobLambie, David
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLamond, James
Cohen, HarryLeadbitter, Ted
Coleman, DonaldLeighton, Ron
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Lewis, Terry
Corbyn, JeremyLitherland, Robert
Cousins, JimLivsey, Richard
Cox, TomLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Crowther, StanLofthouse, Geoffrey
Cryer, BobLoyden, Eddie
Cummings, JohnMcAllion, John
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcAvoy, Thomas
Cunningham, Dr JohnMacdonald, Calum A.
Dalyell, TamMcFall, John
Darling, AlistairMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McKelvey, William
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Maclennan, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)McTaggart, Bob
Dewar, DonaldMcWilliam, John
Dixon, DonMadden, Max
Doran, FrankMahon, Mrs Alice
Douglas, DickMarek, Dr John
Dunnachie, JimmyMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Eadie, AlexanderMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Eastham, KenMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Evans, John (St Helens N)Martlew, Eric
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Maxton, John
Fatchett, DerekMeacher, Michael
Faulds, AndrewMeale, Alan
Fearn, RonaldMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fisher, MarkMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Flynn, PaulMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMoonie, Dr Lewis
Foster, DerekMorgan, Rhodri
Foulkes, GeorgeMorley, Elliott
Fraser, JohnMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fyfe, MariaMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Galloway, GeorgeMullin, Chris
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Murphy, Paul
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Nellist, Dave
George, BruceO'Brien, William
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnO'Neill, Martin
Godman, Dr Norman A.Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gordon, MildredParry, Robert
Gould, BryanPatchett, Terry
Graham, ThomasPendry, Tom
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Pike, Peter L.
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Prescott, John
Grocott, BrucePrimarolo, Dawn
Hardy, PeterQuin, Ms Joyce
Harman, Ms HarrietRadice, Giles
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRandall, Stuart
Haynes, FrankRedmond, Martin
Heffer, Eric S.Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Henderson, DougReid, Dr John
Hinchliffe, DavidRichardson, Jo
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Holland, StuartRobertson, George
Home Robertson, JohnRobinson, Geoffrey
Rogers, AllanTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Rooker, JeffThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Rowlands, TedTurner, Dennis
Ruddock, JoanWall, Pat
Salmond, AlexWallace, James
Sedgemore, BrianWalley, Joan
Sheerman, BarryWarden, Gareth (Gower)
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWareing, Robert N.
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Skinner, DennisWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Snape, PeterWinnick, David
Soley, CliveWise, Mrs Audrey
Spearing, NigelYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Steel, Rt Hon David
Stott, RogerTellers for the Noes:
Strang, GavinMr. Alun Michael and
Straw, JackMrs. Llin Golding.
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,That this House, noting that Government policies have established a sound and stable legal framework for the conduct of industrial relations which has significantly reduced the incidence and impact of disputes; that the National Union of Seamen has rejected various proposals for resolving this dispute; that stringent safety inspections have been carried out by Department of Transport surveyors on the P & O ferries 'Pride of Bruges' and 'Pride of Kent', covering not only the vessels themselves and their equipment, but also the manning arrangements and the training of the crew; believes that the resolution of industrial disputes must be a matter for the parties concerned operating within the law and within their economic circumstances; and condemns acts of intimidation and unlawful secondary action designed to resolve industrial disputes by means outside the law.'.