§ Mr. Lawrence
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 continuing closure of the unemployment benefit and Department of Health and Social Security offices in Burton-upon-Trent and elsewhere.The matter is specific in that it concerns official strike action now being taken by clerical staff members of the Civil and Public Services Association at the unemployment benefit office in Burton-upon-Trent and in 13 other targeted towns and cities in Britain.
The DHSS office clerical staff has come out in sympathy without going through the established union procedures, and that means that no unemployment, sickness or supplementary benefit of any kind has been paid out by these offices in the last four days.
The matter is important both because it raises a matter of vital constitutional significance and because it is causing substantial human distress. The dispute is not about wages or the threat of redundancy. The Minister has made it clear that there will be no redundancies as a result of the scheme that is being discussed. It is about whether the new leadership of a powerful union, a leadership consisting of Left-wing militants—and that is because thousands of moderate 1745 civil servants could not stir themselves from their apathy long enough to vote in the elections—can so lean on a Labour or any Government as to force them to change their policy decisions.
The matter is important to the House because this union, with an utterly callous disregard for the misery it might cause, has chosen as its victims in this struggle tens of thousands of the unemployed, the sick and disabled—the weakest people in our society.
The matter is urgent because 2,000 people in Burton and 30,000 in the rest of the country may not receive enough money to live on this week. Furthermore, there is expected to be some violent reaction at the offices concerned, and I have just heard that the Burton branch has voted unanimously to stay out indefinitely. The likely effect of that, if the Government are not forced to back down to avoid confrontation, is positively frightening.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) gave me notice this morning that he would seek, under Standing Order No. 9, to draw attention to a specific and important matter which he thought should have urgent consideration and on which he would seek to move the Adjournment of the House, namely,the continuing closure of the unemployment benefit and Department of Health and Social 1746 Security offices in Burton-upon-Trent and elsewhere.I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said and I have no doubt—nor, I am sure, will the House have any doubt—that he has drawn attention to a serious matter. I have to decide whether the business of the day is to be changed, tonight or on Monday night next. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I am afraid that I cannot rule that the hon. Member's submission falls within the provisions of the Standing Order and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.