HC Deb 20 June 1966 vol 730 cc38-54
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the seamen's strike.

As the House will be aware, the first Report of the Court of Inquiry was rejected by the Executive Committee of the National Union of Seamen. In the days that followed, there were several meetings between the National Union of Seamen's Executive Committee and the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Trades Union Congress and between representatives of the National Union of Seamen and the Government. There were also, of course, meetings between my right hon. Friend and myself and the Trades Union Congress Finance and General Purposes Committee.

Last week, as the House knows, my right hon. Friend and I had a series of meetings with nominated representatives of the union and the shipowners, and on Friday there was a joint meeting between the two sides at 10, Downing Street. When this failed to produce any move towards a settlement, my right hon. Friend and I met the full Executive Committee. After this, the Executive returned to their headquarters and resolved to continue the strike, while reaffirming their willingness to resume negotiations with the employers. In all the meetings, my right hon. Friend and I stressed that the Government stood on the Report of the Court of Inquiry.

While apparently moving towards an acceptance of the two stages of implementation of the 40-hour week recommended in the Report, the seamen stood out for maintaining the present leave arrangements in respect of Sundays worked at sea, on average 51, instead of the 39 recommended by the Court. The position of the owners was that only with considerable difficulty could they be persuaded to accept the Pearson Report and that, if the strike continued, the effect on the industry might be such that even this could not be afforded. My right hon. Friend and I made repeatedly clear that, although we were not standing on every dot and comma of the Pearson Report, we should be opposed to a settlement which cost more than the Pearson recommendations. We were prepared to agree to a proposal that additional days' leave could be earned by their being taken in lieu of overtime, which would clearly have no effect on the cost.

We also said that, since the Report criticised the very high rate of overtime in British ships compared with their Continental competitors, and since the National Union of Seamen asserted that the ships could be adequately worked with less recourse to overtime, the union might well reserve its position on leave arrangements until the Court of Inquiry in the autumn had completed the second stage of its investigation, namely, the examination of all matters affecting productivity, including questions of manning, flexible use of crews and overtime working, as well as other aspects of seagoing employment.

If it was clear that, on any or all of these matters, there could be a guaranteed increase in productivity, then at that stage there could be further discussions on leave, but it must be clearly understood that the total cost of any additional leave or other arrangements must be fully met by increases in productivity, which must be more than pious aspirations or declarations of intent and must be firmly in the bag before any further concessions can be made.

Before I come to what I think are the main issues now facing the industry and the nation, I should like to say a word about the emergency powers. As the House knows, both the Proclamation of the state of emergency and the Regulations made under the Emergency Powers Act expire in the middle of this week. It is the Government's intention to seek a new Proclamation and a renewal of the Regulations on Wednesday. These, of course, will require the assent of the House. When the House agreed to the Regulations, the Government made it clear that the special powers granted to us would be used only if the need arose.

In fact, the rate of build-up of the strike and the position in the individual ports has been such that it has so far not been necessary to use any of the powers. However, so long as the strike continues, with the situation in individual ports varying literally from day to day, the need could arise at any time and we shall not hesitate to use whatever powers are needed, as soon as they are needed. It would have been just as wrong to use these powers before the need arose as it would be to abstain from their use as and when the need becomes clear.

So far as the general level of supplies in the country as a whole are concerned, no serious problem has yet arisen. Some exports, particularly of the bulkier goods, including vehicles, have of course been affected and the effects may last longer than the strike itself, but the general effect on exports has been less than one might have expected. Exporters and shippers have shown great ingenuity, not least by the use of air transport, in maintaining shipments on time. But we are closely watching for individual difficulties to arise and we shall now be entering into discussions with industry to work out emergency plans to use Royal Air Force transport planes if this becomes necessary to deliver particular consignments of exports, obviously where their value is high in relation to their bulk, which it is especially important to deliver on time.

Apart from exports, the most pressing problems we face in the immediate future are the difficulties being experienced by the inhabitants of some of the outlying islands of the United Kingdom and also the maintenance of the parcel post service to and from Northern Ireland—and Northern Irish industry makes considerable use of this service for the shipment of its goods to the main part of the United Kingdom. Although a service has been maintained to certain Scottish islands, the Government now propose to supplement this service by the regular use of naval vessels to make possible a greater movement of supplies. With regard to the Northern Irish parcel post, a considerable part of the backlog has been cleared over the last week and we are now ready to use Royal Air Force planes to clear the rest, if necessary.

I should like to indicate how the Government see the situation following last week's meetings. We Have made clear to the Executive of the union the serious damage which the strike is inflicting and is capable of further inflicting on our economic position, even if, so far, the damage has been far less than was hoped by some of those who saw in the strike a means of crippling the economy and securing a reversal of essential Government policies.

Secondly, we have made it clear that, while we have done everything in our power to secure a satisfactory and honourable settlement, if the strike continues the Government must react to it with every measure necessary to protect the interests of the nation. This they fully understand, as public statements have shown. It is not our desire to see this union smashed or weakened. If this were to occur it would result from actions not of Government but of those exercising their powers within and upon the union.

The Executive can now be in no doubt that, although they started the strike against a background of considerable public support for the seamen's case, public sympathy has been progressively alienated, first by their brusque rejection of the Pearson Report, secondly by their continuing refusal to follow the course urged upon them by the Trades Union Congress and the Government, and thirdly—and I said this in clear terms to the Executive—by the public reaction to television films and Press reports of the action of certain militant individuals in individual ports against seamen seeking freedom to express their own point of view.

The seamen's Executive are probably in little doubt that the strike will not succeed in forcing any settlement beyond that which is so widely regarded as reasonable. Any success they were to have in widening the area of the strike would succeed only in damaging the economy and ultimately damaging, if not destroying, the effectiveness of the union by putting still further strains on the minority of members who are bearing the sacrifice.

By the end of this week, seamen engaged in the cross-channel and other short sea trades will have lost on average out of their wages over £100, and in many cases far more than that, at this time of seasonal peak earnings. With a wage settlement estimated at providing a further £1 a week, it will take them nearly two years to get back what they and their families have already lost, and this period will extend by each day that the strike lasts. These men at least have pretty well already lost in hard cash more than they would have gained over the next year if their full demand had been conceded.

This union has had an unhappy history and, as I told the owners on Friday, the owners themselves bear a heavy responsibility for this by the cynical way in which for so many years they were content to transform the union into a creature of the companies. This led to a naturally democratic revolt, which is now giving way, in the name of militancy, to pressures which are anything but democratic. The Executive last Friday knew the score and yet the combined advice and appeals of Government and friendly trade union opinion was rejected as brusquely last Friday as the Pearson Report was rejected nine days earlier.

It has been apparent for some time— and I do not say this without having good reason for saying it—that since the Court of Inquiry's Report a few individuals have brought pressure to bear on a select few on the Executive Council of the National Union of Seamen, who in turn have been able to dominate the majority of that otherwise sturdy union.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the pressures which are being put on men I know to be realistic and reasonable, not only in their executive capacity but in the highly organised strike committees in the individual ports, by this tightly knit group of politically motivated men who, as the last General Election showed, utterly failed to secure acceptance of their views by the British electorate, but who are now determined to exercise backstage pressures, forcing great hardship on the members of the union and their families, and endangering the security of the industry and the economic welfare of the nation.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that the whole House will regret that at the meetings at the end of last week he and his colleagues found themselves unable to persuade the Executive of the union to call off the strike? Is he also aware that we believe that it is right for the Government to ask for the Emergency Powers to be renewed in these circumstances?

At the same time, is it not rather late that only now the Government should be working out emergency plans with industry to deal with the problems which are arising? As the Government have agreed to use the Royal Air Force and the Navy in certain circumstances, will they now work out plans with industry to deal with the heavy exports which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned are being held back?

Thirdly, in view of the last part of the statement, could the right hon. Gentleman now ask the Minister of Labour to press the executive of the union immediately to organise a secret ballot which would enable those men who wish to go back to work to express their views in a constitutional manner within the union rules? We are aware of the difficulties of this, but in view of the position which the Prime Minister has described in such vivid language, I believe that the whole House would like him to use his influence with the executive committee of the union to do this.

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for saying that the whole House shares the regret that our efforts last week were not met by willingness to end the dispute, and also for what he said about the need for emergency powers.

With regard to the plan for helping with export movements, I think that we were right at that stage not to institute any new procedures. The right hon. Gentleman will realise—indeed, none better; he is a former President of the Board of Trade—the tremendous difficulty in this situation in doing anything about the movement of the heavier exports— buses, lorries, cars and so on. A couple of days ago I met a leading exporter to the United States who said that because of the strike they had been using air transport, which they had never previously considered using because they thought it would be too expensive, but they are so satisfied with it and with the cost of it that they are not going to return to shipping when the strike is over. There is a very serious warning here about the future of the industry.

As to a secret ballot, my right hon. Friend and I considered very strongly whether we should tell the union that, in our view, such a ballot should be instituted. There were moments when both of us felt that a secret ballot of the executive might be the right answer. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, when he ponders on this, will see some of the very grave difficulties and some of the dangers and the almost certain effect of delay which could result if the ballot were to be organised among not merely those who are at present on strike but among those who are on the high seas, many of whom have not been in touch with the situation at all. It might take a very long time to get results, and one can imagine the way in which the results might come through. If the ballot were in favour of continuing the dispute, it might be appealed to by those who felt it right to appeal to it for several weeks thereafter. The executive might feel unable to move in the light of a ballot of that kind.

Another problem is that of knowing who should be balloted—those on strike or all members. If it were the ordinary, nominal registered members, many of them have not been to sea for many years. So one can see difficulties about what is at first sight an attractive proposition. I hope that we shall see used a secret and democratic means of enabling members at individual branch meetings—which I hope they will attend in greater numbers—to express their views.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that his statement will be viewed by the public at large as an extremely serious one over a strike which now can do no one any good and is increasingly going to do a great deal of harm to people who are wholly innocent in the dispute and many of whom are just as badly paid as seamen?

Perhaps I might ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions about the Emergency Regulations situation. He will be aware, as he indicated, that the situation in which it was envisaged that Emergency Regulations might have to be enforced is already in being on some of the islands. May I take it that when he speaks of the regular use of naval vessels, this is now official Government policy, and that the emergency committees in the islands should plan accordingly, because we can hardly go on not knowing from day to day how we shall get the essential supplies?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is not only in Northern Ireland that the parcel post has been disrupted, and if special efforts are to be made to maintain it to that area, will he ensure that for the islands equally effective measures are taken? Also, is he aware that some essential exports are already held up in the islands, and that coal is at a premium in Shetland?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the problems of the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, he has kept in very close touch with the Government Departments concerned, as we recognise, and I think that it will be possible to say a little more to him about the naval vessels so that those who are planning in the islands will know what they will be able to depend on in future. It will be recognised that some of the ports are not very suitable for some of the naval vessels that we should like to see on that run. We will look at the matter of the parcels post. If we can get more naval vessel journeys in, it will probably mean that we can deal with the parcel post.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the strike is now unlikely to do any good. I certainly agree with that. My right hon. Friend and I, although we did our best to stop the strike at the beginning, felt that it was impossible to stop it and that there was a desire on the part of the union, after its long and unhappy history, to assert its control, to assert the fact that it was a union and to establish the virility of the union. I believe that anything that they wanted to do in that direction has been achieved, and that if they now stay out it will endanger the union because of the very serious strain that there is between the short sea trade and the deep sea trade members. I believe that they should have accepted the Pearson Report when it was published, and I hope that they will now reconsider their attitude.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most ordinary people consider that the demands that the seamen made were just and equitable and that they have shown great patience and restraint over very many years? If that is so, is it not a little hard that they should now be expected to put up with the unfair and inequitable conditions for another twelve months by a reference to considerations which, however important, have no direct or specific bearing upon their own industry?

The Prime Minister

I agree that the seamen have shown very great patience and restraint for very many years when the union was not able, and received no encouragement from the owners, to negotiate fair and comparable conditions of employment and wages. It was because of this that there was the democratic revolution in the union which led to the later developments which I have described. However, my hon. Friend will recognise that last year the seamen got an increase of 14½ per cent. They got a substantial payment because they were committed to work on Saturdays and Sundays at sea. This was, I believe, abused by certain owners and masters. Now they have been given a substantial award which gives them all that they are asking in the matter of a 40-hour week twelve months from now instead of two years as proposed by the owners.

I would think that, in view of the successive improvements last year and what is now offered, they would feel that they have done everything to convince the public of their case. I certainly believe that they are now losing public sympathy by the fact that some of them at least are saying, and saying very blatantly, that they are more concerned now with harming the nation than with getting the justice that we all want to see. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] I have seen on television leading members of the union saying just those very words. As my hon. Friend knows, after recognising the strength of the seamen's case, my right hon. Friend and I did everything in our power to deal with it. We set up a high-powered court of inquiry to examine all their problems, including the long-standing problem of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. There is no reason why that should not be settled quickly, and all their other frustrations and grievances. We have also announced that there is to be an inquiry into the future structure, organisation and efficiency of the industry. I was shocked to find that at a meeting of the owners last week, when I asked them to hold out some hope of a reduction of one hour a week in overtime, as in the case of other shipping companies overseas—that is, that productivity would be increased by 2 per cent, over the next year—they said that they could give no assurances owing to the structure of the industry that even this would happen.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Would the Prime Minister not agree that if this unfortunate strike continues for very much longer it may be difficult for the terms of the Court of Inquiry to be implemented? Would he not further agree that it would be wrong for these terms to be laid open for an indefinite period, terms which the right hon. Gentleman and everyone agrees are reasonably fair?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not want to make the position even more difficult. It is the view of the owners that they would have difficulty in meeting this Report, and, of course, that it might become impossible if the industry were badly affected for a long period ahead. It is my view, and that of my right hon. Friend, that this is a fair settlement, and I believe that the owners really have a great deal which they could contribute by getting much greater efficiency in this industry, because the Report was quite critical on this matter compared with owners in other countries.

Mr. Whitaker

Would my right hon. Friend consider whether the best way to cure the mismanagement and the root causes of discontent over many years is not to take this industry into public ownership?

The Prime Minister

We are setting up this inquiry—this independent, impartial. high-powered inquiry—on the lines of the Plowden Report into the aircraft industry and the Geddes Report into the shipbuilding industry—[Interruption.]—so that we can get a really detailed examination of the structural and efficiency problems of the industry, but I had better not try to anticipate what such a committee might report.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the Prime Minister recall that 48 hours ago Mr. Hogarth said that the strike would certainly last for another 14 days? If that is the case, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether measures are in hand to ration petrol, a step which would cause grave inconvenience to industry, trade, commerce and private individuals in this country within a fortnight?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the statement made by Mr. Hogarth on Friday, but I am bound to say that I think that one of the points he had in mind was that if there were to be a ballot on the lines on which some members of the Executive were thinking, then it would take at least a fortnight to organise it and get the results in, particularly if it extended to members who are at present overseas. We are, of course, making all necessary plans for any situation which could arise if the strike lasts for a few days, for two weeks or longer. Certainly I think the hon. Gentleman—whom we are all glad to see has recovered after his unfortunate crash last week—is exaggerating the present dangers to our oil and petrol supplies by saying what he said.

Mr. Molloy

Is the Prime Minister aware that in circumstances like this there are bound to arise occasions when there will be the use of extravagant language; that opportunities will no doubt be taken by some extremists to exploit any given situation? Would my right hon. Friend not agree that to give the extremists the sort of highlighting that he has given this afternoon does not help the solid trade unionists, and that it might have been more in the interests of the seamen if he had stressed the desirability of negotiating to try to find a solution by quite a number of members of the Executive and the seamen themselves—rather than highlighting the attitude of the extremists?

The Prime Minister

There is, of course, always the problem of extremists on both sides of industry when there are these industrial difficulties. But I think that this goes beyond that. My right hon. Friend and I, both before the strike began and again last Friday—day after day and night after night last week—did everything in our power to get a negotiated and fair settlement. I am absolutely convinced, as is my right hon. Friend, that when the 48 members of the Executive left Downing Street on Friday afternoon most of them knew what the score was and that it would be better for the industry and the seamen to call off the strike. My doubt is—and this is not just a question of individual extremists—on the question of how far they are their own masters in taking decisions of this sort.

Mr. Sandys

While wishing the Prime Minister every success in his further efforts to end this damaging strike, will he say whether he is beginning to give some thought to what should be done when the strike is over? Does he agree that afterwards, while the problem is still alive in the public mind, no time should be lost in introducing legislation to restore the balance between the interests of the unions and the interests of the nation?

The Prime Minister

We are giving thought to what will happen after the strike is over, including the question of taking rapid action to build up stocks and supplies again where they have been run down, to help with exports and in other ways. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, matters of legislation which involve very deep and difficult questions are being studied by the Royal Commission. One thing became clear to me last week in that, however attractive, prima facie attractive, proposals for dealing with problems like this by legislation might be, I am absolutely certain that in the conditions of this strike they would have had no effect whatever.

Mr. Mendelson

Is it not evident, from the meetings that have been held this morning in the major ports, that the members of the union now attach as much importance to a cut in leave days as they do to any other subject under discussion? Is it not also clear that it is often the case that one does not get complete acceptance on every detail of a report of a court of inquiry? As Mr. Hogarth is on record as having said last week that if there could be some hope of new negotiations with the employers on the question of leave days, it might not get them everything they wanted but that there might be some improvement so that there might be some hope of a chance of finishing the strike, will my right hon. Friend get the two sides together to talk on this basis?

The Prime Minister

I recognised, from the moment of the first meeting with the union last week, that the question of leave days had replaced the 40-hour week as the main issue. I think that probably the union was prepared to accept the Pearson Report in respect of the 40-hour week, although it did not say so. The union did not say that, but I think that its attitude was to leave that and deal with leave, and we told them how this problem could be handled. We got them together at Downing Street with the employers. That was not easy. I would be happy to try to get them together again. But the differences are such that the union said that it was satisfied that it could guarantee improvements in productivity to pay for this without adding to the cost of the Pearson award. The employers, for reasons which I think were not altogether good reasons, said that they could not accept this because of the widely scattered ownership in the industry; because they could not speak for 400 owners. That was why I suggested that the Pearson Court itself, which could produce a report by the early autumn, should go into these productivity questions, and that if it found that it could be copper-bottomed and guaranteed, not just by pious aspirations, the whole leave question could be considered, and I should have thought that that was a reasonable suggestion which the union might have accepted.

Mr. Noble

Is the Prime Minister aware that the people of the West Coast of Scotland are extremely grateful for the limited but essential work which the Navy has in the past been doing? However, would he consider with his colleagues the possibility of dealing with the problems about which he has spoken and the difficulty of getting naval craft into certain ports? Would it not be more practical to use the three modern ships which the Secretary of State owns and which are designed for both tourists and freight to get moving again to the West Coast because on these islands the main cash crop is tourism? Is he aware that this is the centre of the tourist trade and that, if this trade were to die, the islands would suffer much more than most other areas of the country?

The Prime Minister

I certainly will ask my right hon. Friends who deal with the day-to-day emergency situation to look at the situation raised by the right hon. Member. I thank him for what he said about the limited but effective help given by the Royal Navy to these islands.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

My right hon. Friend mentioned the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act. Can he indicate how far advanced are preparations for draft amendments to that Act for consideration in future by this House?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of State have been very active in trying to get this matter brought to a point where the House can look at it in discussion with both sides of the industry, but I am afraid that, roughly speaking, from, I think, November onwards when the present dispute became acute no further progress has been made. If it had been made we might have had a text of a Bill almost ready. In default of agreement between the two sides, of course, under the leadership of my right hon. Friend, the Pearson Committee is charged with the duty of producing a report and recommendations for improvements which are long overdue in this 70-year problem.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Will the Prime Minister arrange for a special report to be submitted in due course to the Attorney-General to deal with the methods of picketing, which in some cases have verged on violence and intimidation?

The Prime Minister

Questions about intimidation which go beyond the law are, of course, a matter for the local police in any area where this might happen. I think there have been some strong words used, but I have not been told of any incidents which would require the attention of the police. If there were any it would be a matter for the police. There have been a number of threats to particular individuals about what would happen when the strike is over. I make clear that so far as the Government are concerned we shall not stand for any victimisation of any individual by either side of the industry.

Mr. Heffer

In view of the fact that my right hon. Friend had it drawn to his attention prior to meeting the seamen that the question of leave was of vital importance, could he indicate why the Government have not put pressure on the employers to grant concessions in this direction? Is he aware that in the major ports the men are more determined and more solid than ever and we are creating greater probl[...] in relation to the dispute and not solving them by the actions which the Government have taken?

The Prime Minister

When my hon. Friend drew to my attention last Wednesday afternoon that this matter was now the key issue, I think he will recall that I said that we were very well aware of it and were giving thought to the problem. When we met the union about an hour later this was confirmed by what the union said to us. We put forward a number of alternative propositions in a friendly and conciliatory way in order to get a solution to the problem by the union and the employers. Neither side seemed to be very ready to move. That was why we suggested that this matter should be referred to the Pearson Committee to make sure that the improvements in productivity necessary to pay for further arrangements on leave should be in the bag before the money was paid out.

Sir S. McAdden

Will the Prime Minister take the House into his confidence about the pressures which are being exerted, as he said, on individuals and groups of the National Executive of the National Union of Seamen and on officials? Why should these people be allowed to shelter behind a shield of anonymity? Will he say who they are?

The Prime Minister

I did not say that without being very clear about what is going on. It was not based on rumour or a secondhand account. I was absolutely certain about what I was saying, but I do not think it would help to give more details now. I am sure that when the Executive realises what is happening and when many members of the union know what is happening they will feel that it is time that they considered the whole matter again in the light of the suggestions which we put to them last Friday.

Mr. John Hynd

In view of the fact that the Prime Minister clearly and deliberately made statements which implied very serious, very sinister implications which undoubtedly will cause considerable disquiet among the public, can we be informed—since he must, as he said, have founded this not on rumour but facts—that at some stage the facts will be made available to the public?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. At the right time that would be absolutely right, but I am sure that it would not be right at this time. My right hon. Friend and I will be discussing this matter, not only this matter but the whole matter, when we meet Mr. Hogarth at 5 o'clock.

Mr. Heath

May I pursue a little further the last two supplementary questions? The Prime Minister said that at his meetings the Executive of the Union knew the score but it seemed to him that they were not their own masters. He has since also spoken of intimidation of members. Is it not a very serious situation? How can the strike be brought to an end in these circumstances? How can he get publicity for the situation that the difficulty is over leave days which can be dealt with after the final report of the Pearson Committee? As he suggested that somehow there would be secret ballots at the ports which would show that the men wanted the strike to be brought to an end, may I suggest that the Trades Union Congress should make facilities available for secret ballots to be held, possibly through the help of the Proportional Representation Society? Otherwise, how does he visualise that the strike will be brought to an end?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to correct one small rendering of something I said. I did not say the final report of the Pearson Court of Inquiry. The situation is in fact better than that. A second interim report will be ready, we are told, by the early autumn and can deal with the question of productivity and create a situation in which there could be further discussions about leave days. Certainly the situation relates not to the 40-hour week, despite some of the banners which we see being carried, but to consequential leave changes. I think this is well known in the industry—my hon. Friends from seaports have said that it is—and my right hon. Friend will have to consider what more can be done to bring that about. What I hope will be brought home is the suffering caused to individual families at this time, which will take two years to be put right in terms of the increases at present being discussed.

On the other question, it is better for the industry to make its own conclusions about the pressures and the way in which the strike has been misused by certain elements and other events which have taken place. In regard to a secret ballot, it would have been, I think, the intention for the union, if it decided to go into a country-wide secret ballot, to make use of some independent organisation to collect and count the votes, although there is still the problem of supplying to that organisation a correct and up-to-date representative list of whom the members really are.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a grave matter, but we must move on.