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 submit that in the course of these days the constituents of every right hon. and hon. Member will suffer, to a greater or lesser extent, some degree of hardship and/or privation as a result of the current industrial unrest and strikes. I understand that in terms of numbers this is the gravest industrial unrest since the national strike in 1926. The lorry drivers' strike continues to deny some essential foodstuffs to shoppers. Although it is too early to judge clearly, it is apparent that the code of practice is not being universally obeyed. Consequently, it has had little effect in some parts of the country. At all events, I understand that the other union involved, the United Road Transport Union, has stated that it proposes to ignore the code of practice. Factories are closed; men are laid off; the weather is damaging prospects for fresh produce; prices are rising; and, more serious, violence is increasing and there has already been a death on the picket lines. Many docks are blockaded more effectively than they were in war time. Exports and imports are immobilised and ships are diverted to the ports of our competitors on the Continent. Today, 1½ million public service workers are on strike. Indeed, I understand that many thousands are lobbying the House. Many schools are shut; ambulances are off the road, in some cities even for emergency services; rubbish is not being cleared; roads are not being cleaned or gritted; some airports are shut; graves are not being dug. Tomorrow, trains will not run, and I understand that the Underground may not run in London. I submit that this situation is specific, urgent and important. The Government do not seem to recognise it as such. They have not called a state of emergency. I ask that the House may be permitted to debate the matter."The increasing privation and hardship caused to citizens of this country by the present industrial unrest."
The hon. Member gave me notice before 12 o'clock 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 thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
I am satisfied that the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 9. Does the hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House?The leave of the House having been given, the motion stood over, under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration), until Seven o'clock this evening."the increasing privation and hardship caused to citizens of this country by the present industrial unrest."
I have two further statements to make. I should inform the House that, in addition to the application for an emergency debate which I have just granted, I received notice of application under Standing Order No. 9 from nine other hon. Members. As the House knows, it is within my discretion to grant only one emergency debate. I have already granted an emergency debate in wide terms. The hon. Members who made applications were as follows: Mr. Peter Brooke, on the subject of no emergency cover by ambulance men in London; Mr. Reginald Eyre, on the subject of the chaotic situation in large industrial towns; Sir Paul Bryan, on the subject of the animal feed situation in East Yorkshire; Sir Frederic Bennett, on the subject of the disruption of sale, processing and cold storage of fish; Mr. Alexander Fletcher, on the subject of local government and services in Scotland; Mr. Leon Brittan, on the subject of the closure of the sterilisation unit in Cleveland; Mr. Anthony Steen, on the subject of the picketing of the port of Liverpool docks; Mr. Nigel Forman, on the subject of London children's education disrupted by NUPE; Mr. Norman Tebbit, on the subject of the closure of municipal airports. All those matters can be discussed under the terms of the emergency debate which I have granted.The House may wish to be reminded of the effect on the Weights and Measures Bill of the Adjournment of the House being moved at seven o'clock. First, the proceedings of the Bill will be interrupted at seven o'clock. A debate will then take place until 10 o'clock on the motion for the Adjournment. At 10 o'clock, or whenever proceedings on the motion for the Adjournment are concluded, the debate on the Weights and Measures Bill will be resumed. This will be continued for a period of time equal to the duration of proceedings on the motion for the Adjournment.
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. As all the applications for emergency debates came from the Conservative side of the House, may I ask you whether hon. Members who put down those applications will be heard before those who did not bother.
The hon. Gentleman has been in the House a long time, and my guess is that he knows the answer to that question.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As all the applications for the Standing Order No. 9 application in terms wide enough to cover the matters that would have been raised under any of the other nine applications which were made to you. It is unusual for Standing Order No. 9 applications not to be heard, but we appreciate why you have decided not to hear them. However, it would be helpful if you would confirm my understanding that had a Standing Order No. 9 application been made on a subject that would not have been encompassed within the application that you have granted, you would have heard it, and that there is no intention of setting a precedent under which Standing Order No. 9 applications are limited.
The hon. Gentleman is quite correct. If a Standing Order No. 9 application had dealt with something outside the terms of the application that I have granted, I would, of course, have heard it.I am anxious that the procedures of the House should not be changed by a mass application or in any other way.