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Dock Strikes

Volume 798: debated on Tuesday 17 March 1970

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With your permission, Mr. Speaker, 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 of public importance, namely,

"The occurrence today of a docks strike designed to influence Parliament and Parliament's consideration in Committee of Amendments to Clause No. 41 of the Ports Bill at 4 p.m. this afternoon."
The facts are specific and beyond question. We have had reports during the morning that up to 29,000 dockers have taken strike action today in London, Hull, Mersey and elsewhere. The objects of the strike are also undeniable, because they have been declared to be, first, the acceptance of more nationalisation of ports and, second, and more important, a greater degree of workers' control of the docks.

This was explained at a meeting at lunchtime at Tower Hill, when it was stated, "We shall not finish until final victory is ours and we own the ports." The facts are clear and delegates are descending upon a Committee which will be meeting in one minute's time to put forward their point of view and influence our deliberations. It is also undeniable that at 4 p.m. precisely we shall be discussing an Amendment to introduce more workers' control into the ports under this Bill.

The second question of importance is also undeniable. This is the first major occasion since the general strike when we have had a specific industrial action brought forward to influence one of our specific discussions in the House of Commons. I suggest that the constitutional importance is also clear, in that this morning we saw a clear indication that these tactics of intimidation have already succeeded. The Standing Committee, on a very controversial Bill, has dealt with 40 Clauses in less than 20 sittings, which is faster progress than on any other major nationalisation Bill. Despite that, today, the day of this strike, the Minister of Transport, just at 1 p.m., moved the closure on an Amendment, so that we could not——

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot make the speech that he will make if a debate is granted under Standing Order No. 9.

I shall not do so, Mr. Speaker. After 20 sittings of the Standing Committee, we have had the first indication today, which happens to be the day of the strike, of the use of the closure and also the specific threat of an all-night sitting. This is a clear indication that the matter I have referred to has succeeded and appears to be an almost catastrophic cave-in to anarchy. The purpose is clear. The Standing Committee is now meeting at 4 p.m. to discuss a specific Amendment relating to a specific matter on which the strike has been specifically called, and I suggest that, if there ever was a case justifying a debate on the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, this is it.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) was kind enough to give me notice earlier that he would seek to apply for a debate under Standing Order No. 9. He asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific matter of public importance that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The occurrence today of a docks strike designed to influence Parliament and Parliament's consideration in Committee of Amendments to Clause No. 41 of the Ports Bill at 4 p.m. this afternoon."
As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9, I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have listened most carefully to the submission which the hon. Gentleman has made, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and that therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.

Order. When Mr. Speaker has ruled on a submission relating to Standing Order No. 9, it is not usual for an hon. Member to continue the matter.

I submit that there is a point of order here, Mr. Speaker. Since I have had the privilege of being a Member of this House, many constituents have lobbied me on Bills going through the House. A few minutes ago, I was seen by a constituent who was lobbying me on the Ports Bill, on which he has strong feelings. Whether or not he was right to take strike action, in what way was he intimidating me or Parliament in putting his point of view?

Order. All this would have been in order if I had granted the submission under Standing Order No. 9 and we were having the debate which I refused to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.] I have no intention of being intimidated by the Opposition. [Interruption.] When the Tories learn to respect law and order, I will continue.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) submitted under Standing Order No. 9——

Order. We cannot debate the submission of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart. We listened to it, I ruled on it and that is the end of it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you not rule on one matter—that a lobby which takes place is in no case an intimidation of Parliament?

This is neither the time nor the place for me to say. It is most unusual, when a Standing Order No. 9 debate has been either granted or refused, for the House to continue on points of order about it, and it is certainly most unusual to comment, as the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) is doing, on the submission which another hon. Member has made.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not challenge or question your Ruling, but I would suggest that it is evident that Parliament is under a threat of some dictation at the moment, whatever may be the wisdom or otherwise of Government policy. I ask you now formally whether you would be willing tomorrow to receive another such suggestion as was just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) in the light of any events which may have taken place between now and then.

I cannot rule hypothetically on applications for Standing Order No. 9 debates which will be made in future as a result of circumstances none of which we know at the moment.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With respect, I did ask you if a Ruling could be given by you—and I hope this is a genuine point of order—that a lobby of people who are obviously constituents of ours who have strong feelings on a certain Bill is in no way an intimidation of Parliament.

It is not a question of ruling at all. It was set out by the Minister in our debate yesterday and was set out during discussions which took place on the Private Notice Question yesterday. The hon. Gentleman knows that Members of Parliament may be lobbied by citizens in a free country.