HC Deb 03 May 1968 vol 763 cc1473-5
Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I wonder whether I might raise a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker, about a matter which has given rise to some difficulty to some of my hon. and right hon. Friends as a result of the strike of Post Office clerks. You will be aware that in consequence of this strike the Members' Post Office here in the Palace has not been operating. There is a notice on the outside indicating that it is hoped that service might be resumed by 11.30, but, of course, we shall have to wait and see.

I raise this point of order with great hesitation, for I am sure I speak for all hon. Members when I say that we get superb service in the Members' Post Office. The clerks are extremely attentive to our wishes and are always most efficient, courteous and helpful. It is for this reason that I raise this point of order with some hesitation. You will be aware that at yesterday's sitting of Standing Committee A, which is considering the Finance Bill, we started with a sittings Motion standing in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the effect that the Committee should resume its next sitting on Tuesday. As a result of various Amendments moved during discussion of the Motion, the Chancellor accepted a proposal that instead of Tuesday we should sit on Monday.

At once it became apparent that Amendments would need to be put down today if they were to appear on the Notice Paper on Monday, and even then they would be starred Amendments. The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), the Chairman of the Committee, has indicated that, although he will not accept manuscript Amendments, he has already selected one or two starred Amendments. I know for a fact that there are some Amendments we are hoping to table on behalf of interests which consult my hon. and right hon. Friends, but most of the suggested amendments are in the post office and cannot be got at with the result that the Amendments may not be tabled today.

This places us in a difficult and embarassing situation. I wonder if it could be indicated to the Chairman of Standing Committee A that as a result of the difficulties which have arisen by this curious concatenation of events he might possibly accept certain manuscript Amendments during Monday's sitting. This is a point which I respectfully suggest is with your competence to judge as a point of order. I express no opinion on the merits or demerits of the stoppage which has given rise to this difficulty, but I emphasise that there is considerable difficulty as a result of these events.

Sir H. Harrison

Further to that point of order. I think this is an unprecedented situation. I therefore ask you, or through you the Leader of the House, whether it was known that this was going to happen and whether some arrangements could not have been made so that hon. Members could themselves get their mail. They have been deliberately debarred from getting their letters which have been sent here. This is without precedent in the Palace of Westminster. It is intolerable that hon. Members should be stopped from getting their mail.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I first deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) as to whether preparation could have been made. That is a matter which the hon. Member must take up with the Leader of the House.

On the issue itself, I was pleased, and I think the House was pleased, to hear the tribute the hon. Member for Wan-stead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) paid to the Post Office staff who serve us so faithfully and well day in and day out.

On the issue itself, I understand that this is an official stoppage of counter staff which has been called by the Union of Post Office Workers in support of wage claims by the postal and telegraph grades. The stoppage is apparently nation-wide for a period of two hours varying from one area to another. That period began here at 9.30, so I am happy to be able to assure the hon. Member that the postal facilities will be restored in rather less than half an hour, so that most of the eventualities which he fears probably will not arise.

On the broad issue, Mr. Speaker has no power to direct a Chairman of one of the Standing Committees to accept or reject Amendments.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Further to that point of order. You said, Mr. Speaker, that the general matter of the arrangements which might have been made was one for the Leader of the House. Since he is here, and since it is the Government who have caused this mess, might he not say how he intends to get us out of it?

Mr. Speaker

I think that what I have said pretty well ends the matter: in 20 minutes I think the problem will have solved itself.

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