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Grunwick Processing Laboratories Limited

Volume 933: debated on Monday 20 June 1977

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and urgent matter which should have precedence over business.

The first of the two interrelated issues is that
"members of the Union of Post Office Workers are refusing, in breach of Section 58 of the Post Office Act 1953, to handle mail for Grunwick Processing Laboratories."
The second issue is that
"the picketing at Grunwick"—
where a total of a thousand or more pickets were assembled and 17 arrests were made this morning—
"has created a situation in which intimidation and violence threaten the freedom of Grunwick workers to carry on their legitimate activities as well as constituting a threat to the general maintenance of law and order."
Since I first gave you notice of my intention to raise this matter with you, Mr. Speaker, no undertaking has been given by the Home Secretary that no Cabinet Ministers would join the picket lines. This is of especial importance when the Secretary of State for Employment is seeking to arbitrate in the matter.

Finally, I submit that all these matters, which vitally affect my constituent, Mr. George Ward, the Managing Director of Grunwick, fully justify an application under Standing Order No. 9 as they are specific, urgent and extremely important and should take precedence over other business.

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice early this morning that he would seek to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believed should have urgent consideration. There are two issues. The first is that

"members of the Union of Post Office Workers are refusing, in breach of Section 58 of the Post Office Act 1953, to handle mail for Grunwick Processing Laboratories."
The second issue is that
"the picketing at Grunwick has created a situation in which intimidation and violence threaten the freedom of Grunwick workers to carry on their legitimate activities as well as constituting a threat to the general maintenance of law and order."
I listened to the long exchanges this afternoon. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take all the factors into account but to give no reasons for my decision. I am aware of the deep interest in this matter, and I have given careful consideration to the application both this afternoon and during the day since I had notice from the hon. Gentleman of his application. But I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, to call attention to a specific and important matter that requires urgent consideration. My application concerns the Grunwick dispute, but, unlike the application of the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst), it is about the dispute's wider implications and its nature and the nature of the picketing at the factory. I couch the matter in the following terms:

"the dispute at Grunwick Processing Laboratories Ltd. and the nature of the picketing at the factory."
Such a motion would allow the House to consider all aspects of the dispute, which has now been going on for 10 months. I urge that the wider implications should be considered by the House at an early stage.

I did not make an application this morning, Mr. Speaker, but last week I made an application which you ruled out of order. My application has now become in order only because of the change in your ruling.

I urge that the House should consider the dispute at an early stage, and the earliest possible time is now tomorrow afternoon. If we were to consider it then, the likelihood is that a great deal of the heat now being generated outside the factory could be transferred to this House and sublimated into much more constructive channels.

We have now taken an interest in the dispute for the first time since it began last August, when there were two Adjournment debates about it. Since then it has been simmering on. A number of people have been picketing outside the factory for 10 months in the pursuit of justice, and nothing has been done for them, apart from the fact that the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has made a ruling which is being disputed by the management.

It is no wonder that in those circumstances a great many people, not all of them members of APEX and not all of them workers at the factory, feel that the only way to right that injustice is to stand in the picket line outside the factory and thereby promote a confrontation between them and the police. If that situation is to be resolved, and quickly, the House must put pressure on not only the Government but the management and the union to come to a peaceful solution. It is for that reason that I suggest that it would be helpful to all if there were a debate tomorrow.

The hon. Gentleman makes his application arising out of the exchanges this afternoon and that obviously puts it in order.

The hon. Gentleman and the House know that I do not decide whether a matter is to be debated in the House. I do not decide whether it is to be debated in the near future. I have to decide only the very narrow issue whether it should have precedence over the business of the House for today or tomorrow. That is the only power that lies with me.

I have listened carefully to the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, who seeks to move the Adjournment of the House to call attention to
"the dispute at Grunwick Processing Laboratories Ltd. and the nature of the picketing at the factory",
but I have to rule that his application does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit it to the House.