§ Mr. Tebbit
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, of which, Mr. Speaker, I have given you prior notice, and which is so urgent that it should have precedence over the business of the House already set down for consideration; namely,the failure of the Post Office to release mail held at the Whitechapel sorting office since the beginning of the recent unofficial dispute.That the matter is specific cannot, I think, be disputed.
To establish its importance, I regret that I must refer briefly to the cause of the dispute. It was an unofficial dispute which arose when the Post Office sought to alleviate unemployment in East London by recruiting additional workers, a move which would have had the effect of reducing the amount of overtime available to those already employed. It was settled in a manner which did not resolve that matter and by an agreement which has not been made public. Nor did it resolve the problem of how the backlog of mail would be cleared. The only clear part of the settlement was that disciplinary proceedings against a trade union official, a Mr. Taylor, would be dropped.
In fact, the Post Office has not been able to bring in additional staff to deal with the backlog of mail. Millions of letters are now locked up, although newly posted mail is being dealt with normally. This is important because, clearly, if 519 letters posted today are being dealt with normally whereas those posted a week or a fortnight ago are still locked up, the mails are being illegally held back and delayed in defiance of the Post Office Act.
It is also important and urgent to my constituents. One company has told me this morning that it is giving notice of lay-off to its employees because money and orders posted to it have not been received. Others, not only from my constituency but from the constituencies of other hon. Members, have told me of similar difficulties.
It is urgent because jobs are at stake as well as because personal distress is being caused.
Finally, it is urgent because it is possible that legal action may soon be brought to secure the release of the mails and, as you, Mr. Speaker, and this House know, that might again involve the risk of confrontation between the Attorney-General and the law of the land.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration; namelythe failure of the Post Office to release mail held at the Whitechapel sorting office since the beginning of the recent unofficial dispute.As I have told the House before, it is not for me to pronounce on the importance of an issue. My task is merely to decide whether the business of the House should be changed and that the matter in question should have precedence.
Under Standing Order No. 9, I take into account the several factors outlined in the Order, but I am not required to give the reasons for my decision.
I have given careful consideration to the representations made by the hon. Gentleman, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.