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,
I am a sponsored member of the National Union of Public Employees, which is one of the unions that will take action. I and my family make regular use of the National Health Service, as do most people in Britain. The problem is specific in that the TUC affiliated trade unions having membership in the National Health Service intend to withdraw their labour for 24 hours beginning at midnight tomorrow and continuing until midnight on Wednesday. The aim will be to reduce the National Health Service for that day, broadly speaking, to a nation-wide accident and emergency service. Surely every right-thinking person would not wish that to happen in any way. The action has been called against the background of deteriorating care and industrial relations in the National Health Service generally. It is agreed on both sides of the House that the matter is important. The Government believe that it is important, because the Secretary of State for Social Services said on 21 April 1982:"the threatened day of industrial action in the Health Service called by all unions having membership in the National Health Service affiliated to the TUC for next Wednesday 19 May."
Those important decisions have been taken and the position is very grave. I agree with the Secretary of State that that is the correct assessment of the position. On top of that, the National Health Service was created by the House of Commons and therefore we have a responsibility to ensure that arrangements are made, through Ministers answerable to the House, for proper provision for our handicapped and sick. That is the danger. The head of the National Health Service is answerable to the House. We all have a duty to provide for the care of the sick and handicapped, and that duty may break down on Wednesday. For those who do not rise to the challenge of duty and have grosser minds, I point out that the Health Service is an important institution that has an annual budget of about £12,000 million and a work force of about 1 million. That is a large commitment for the nation. The matter is important, because the TUC has largely called the strike. That is unprecedented in my experience of industrial relations. Technically, of course, the individual unions have called the strike, but the TUC has co-ordinated the action. That is exceptionally important because normally the TUC, while not wishing to be impartial in such matters, adopts a one-off approach to disputes in order to maintain its role as an independent negotiator, if necessary. On this occasion it has departed from that normal stance and, whatever the technical and legal arguments, Wednesday's strike will be promoted by the TUC. The matter is urgent because the action is due to start at midnight tomorrow and 10 continue for 24 hours. There is no possibility that the decision will be reviewed and retracted before the action takes place unless the House takes action. This is not time to argue the case for the employees' claims, but the Government have offered an increase of 4 to 6·5 per cent., and employees want a 12 per cent. increase. It is a large gap. Against the background of those figures, only the most supine and ineffectual group of public workers would wish to accept such an offer without making the maximum possible demonstration, with inflation not yet in single figures. National Health Service employees are neither supine nor ineffectual——"Over the next weeks important decisions will be taken about industrial action in the National Health Service. The consequences of such action could be very grave."
Order. I have allowed the right hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. Moyle) to go some way, but he knows that he must not make the speech that he would make if I were to grant the application.
I take that point, Mr. Speaker. I am sire ply trying to demonstrate briefly that feelings are strong on this matter and that unless the House takes action we shall have trouble in the National Health Service within 48 hours.National Health Service employees are neither supine nor ineffectual, and, in those circumstances, they may be said to be setting an example to Britain. A debate tomorrow, if you are disposed to grant it, Mr. Speaker, would allow time for the Secretary of State to come to the House and outline proposals that might lead to the calling off of the industrial action. It would give a strong sign to National Health Service workers that their case was attracting attention in the highest quarters, and any irresponsible action by some of the less responsible elements that there may be in the Health Service would be moderated. If no such action is taken, Wednesday will be followed by similar days of action. I hope that I have shown that the problem is specific, vitally important and critically urgent.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he would seek leave to make an application under Standing Order No. 9. The right hon. Gentleman asks leave 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 House will have listened with concern to what the right hon. Gentleman said, and there is no doubt that he has drawn our attention to a very important matter. However, the House knows that it has given me instructions under Standing Order No. 9 that I must take into account the several factors set out in the order bur to give no reasons for my decision. I listened very carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House."the threatened day of industrial action in the Health Service called by all unions having membership in the National Health Service affiliated to the TUC for next Wednesday 19 May."