15 APRIL 1989, Page 22

Scheme in the dock

THE Government's talent-spotters must surely have their eye on David Davis, MP for Boothferry on the Humber, where dockside follies can be observed at first hand. Last year in Clear the Decks, written for the Centre for Policy Studies, he gave the National Dock Labour Scheme such a destabilising thump as to invite Norman Fowler's firm push. What a tale Mr Davis tells of legalised rackets, each with its giveaway name — bobbing, ghosting, welt- ing, disappointment money. What a ghast- ly history of trade diverted, investment discouraged, new employment aborted. He quotes Dick Millar of the National Association of Warehouse Keepers: 'It's like a cordon sanitaire. The thought never occurs to set up in a dock estate.' He quotes John Hackney of the Tees Port Authority: 'In Middlesbrough we have not recruited dockers since 1977' — Middles-

brough is a sink of unemployment, but who there dares or needs to set up more jobs for life? So few registered dockers remain that the Budget surplus could be used to buy them all out at £1.4 million each.