§ Mr. Fry
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,the dispute between members of the National Union of Journalists at Kettering and the East Midlands Allied Press.I am well aware of the pressure of time today and will be as brief as I can in explaining why what appears, initially, to be a purely local dispute has grave national significance. I will deal briefly with the background. This dispute has now gone on for over 11 weeks. It is an official strike. During that time a very much abbreviated version of the newspaper has been printed on five days a week with the editor being solely responsible for the journalistic content.
Despite various efforts on the part of the ACAS and other bodies, four separate attempts to settle the dispute have failed, largely due to the fact that the local members of the NUJ have apparently been unwilling to make any settlement or agreement to which they would have been bound by arbitration. One of the reasons for this is bound up with the influence of the chairman of the local branch, Mr. Reinecke. I commend those who have the interests of industrial peace in this country at heart—
§ Mr. Skinner
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier, you referred to the fact that you were anxious about the time and spoke of the necessity to get on to other business. It occurs to me that you could get rid of this application quickly. As you know, if you did care to listen to the submission and subsequently granted it, it would be necessary for 40 hon. Members to stand in their places in assent. 1455 There are many fewer than 40 hon. Members present in the Chamber, so you might as well call the whole thing off now.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has something in his argument, but he does not know, before the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) sits down—which I know will not be long—how many other hon. Members will come into the Chamber.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. May I invite the hon. Gentleman not to argue his case as though we were having a debate but to outline why we should have it?
§ Mr. Fry
The point is that this chairman has reported the editor of the newspaper to his local branch of the NUJ and today—herein lies the immediacy—the editor has been called to what many of us would describe as a kangaroo court of people who are on strike who are being asked to judge the actions of the editor, who is accused of exceeding his responsibilities.
I submit that the editor is only fulfilling his proper function—that is, producing 1456 a newspaper—and that this situation brings into doubt the assurances we had in the House during the debates on the closed shop and the freedom of the Press, particularly those assurances given by the Leader of the House, who was then Secretary of State for Employment.
I submit that if the action against my constituent, the editor of this local newspaper, succeeds, no newspaper editor in the country will be safe from this kind of victimisation. I believe that the assurances we were given are shown to be absolute nonsense, and that it is therefore high time that the question of the closed shop in respect to journalism, the question of the editor's responsibility, and the freedom of the editor were discussed again.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific end important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration; namely,The dispute between members of the National Union of Journalists at Kettering and the East Midlands Allied Press.The hon. Gentleman did me the courtesy of giving me notice this morning that he would raise this matter. I have listened carefully to his argument, but I cannot give it precedence over the business of the day.