HC Deb 07 August 1913 vol 56 cc1744-5

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any of His Majesty's ships were sent to Leith by reason of the strike at that port; if so, at whose request they were sent; on what occasions were sailors or marines landed to help keep the strikers in order; whether on these occasions they were armed with ball cartridge; was his approval obtained before they were thus employed in an industrial dispute; and what was the last occasion on which the British Navy was put to this use?


On the 17th July, the senior naval officer on the Coast of Scotland ordered six gunboats then lying in the Forth to anchor off Leith. This was done at the request of the Midlothian authorities. The gunboats left on the 19th July. No men were landed from these vessels to assist in keeping order. My information is that only one officer and four men were landed at a pier head inside the docks to ensure communication with the shore. The senior naval officer acted within his powers, in the exercise of his discretion. He informed the Admiralty of the action he had taken. The Navy has been called upon for aid (which, fortunately, did not have to take an active form) during certain widespread strikes in the last two years. The conditions then were, however, exceptional, and such as I trust are not likely to recur.


Are we to understand that a local authority can call upon the Navy to interfere in a labour dispute, and that an admiral can take action first and only report to headquarters after he has taken action?


I have stated that what was done was done at the request of the Midlothian authorities.


Can a local authority not ask a commanding officer to land troops and use them against strikers without reference to headquarters?


I had better have notice of that?

Major HOPE

What Midlothian authority was it?

63. Major HOPE

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can make any statement as to the result of the negotiations which have taken place with a view to effecting a settlement of the Leith dock strike; and whether either side in the dispute are prepared to accept an arbitrator nominated by the Board of Trade?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)

As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, the Chief Industrial Commissioner has been in negotiation with the parties to this dispute, but at the moment it is not advisable to make any statement.

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