§ Mr. Roger White
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is now able to make a statement on the National Ports Council's report on its survey of non-scheme ports and wharves.
§ Mr. Peyton
The National Ports Council has completed its survey of the activities of the non-scheme ports and has reported to me. The full text of its report, together with that of the chairman's covering letter, will be published today and copies will be available in the Vote Office.
I invited the council to examine the traffic, capacity, finances and labour costs of these undertakings and to tender appropriate advice. Questions relating to the scope of the dock labour scheme were outside the council's terms of reference. The report shows that the non-scheme ports represent an important part 174W of the country's port capacity and have over the past five years increased their share of the total traffic. There have also been significant gains in traffic by some scheme ports, while others have lost traffic. Factors which have led to these changes in traffic include altered patterns of trade, particularly with Europe, developments in shipping and cargo handling techniques, physical location, and relative costs and reliability of service. The Government welcome the technical development and efficiency which have contributed to the success of many of these undertakings.
The report shows that rates of pay and general conditions in the largest non-scheme undertakings handling most of the traffic, and employing the greater part of the labour force, are comparable with those in scheme ports, or result from negotiated agreements with the trade unions concerned, and that rates of pay in "own-account" undertakings accord with the agreements in the industries to which they are ancillary.
The council has, however, expressed some concern about conditions of employment in some of the smaller undertakings handling third-party traffic. It has invited my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to consider what steps are open to him to take to bring about improvements in terms and conditions of employment in these undertakings and to eliminate the use of casual labour for cargo handling on a normal and relatively constant basis.
The number of men involved is quite small. Nevertheless, the Government accept that action is need. Improvements in terms and conditions of employment will however have to take account of counter-inflation policies. My right hon. Friend will be discussing with both sides of the industry how progress can best be made.
Finally, the Government note that the council intends urgently to re-examine the existing methods of control of new harbour development and will await the council's further views on this matter. Meanwhile, arrangements will be made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to notify the council of applications for harbour development under the Coast Protection Act 1949.