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Schools (Industrial Action)

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 31 January 1979

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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 important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the closure of schools within the London borough of Havering as a result of industrial action of NUPE and the General and Municipal Workers Union."
The matter is specific, in that these unions have announced a planned programme of industrial disruption directed towards the enforced closure of 10 different schools in the London borough of Havering, of which my constituency of Romford forms a part, on each school day from 29 January to 13 February. The issue is important, because it means that every day during this fortnight numbers of schoolchildren in my constituency will lose their right to education. In common with many other areas, all schools in Havering were closed on 22 January as a result of a strike of municipal workers. Now more schooling is being lost, in defiance of the statutory duty that education should be provided.

I do not need to underline the importance of education to all children. Time lost at their time of life cannot be recovered, and inevitably this enforced irregularity in attendance will encourage the trend towards truancy and vandalism which is already a social problem and may even lead to more juvenile crime. The vast majority of parents in Romford are working people, and working mothers in particular will be badly inconvenienced if they have to make arrangements for their children to be looked after during the day. If they are unsuccessful in this their children may be left to roam the streets.

The matter is urgent, because although in its judgment the London borough of Havering has already advised parents of school closures this week—in advance of making a general public announcement which brought the matter to my attention—there is still a chance before the weekend to avoid another spate of closures next week. In any case, further closures may well follow from a protracted dispute. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will be able to accede to my request for an early opportunity to debate this emergency caused by the strike of public service workers in my constituency.

The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) gave me notice this morning that he would seek leave, under Standing Order No. 9, to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the closure of schools within the London borough of Havering as a result of industrial action by NUPE and the General and Municipal Workers Union."
I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said. He will know that there was a similar application earlier this week about the closure of schools, and the House has instructed me to give no reasons for my decision when an application is made under Standing Order No. 9. I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission, despite the seriousness of his arguments, does not fall within the provisions of Standing Order No. 9 and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.