§ Mr. William Shelton
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 present food shortages throughout the country and the hardship that these will increasingly cause as a result of the picketing taking place by the striking lorry drivers.I have reason to believe that a state of emergency exists today, whatever the Government may say, and that the position is rapidly deteriorating. As we have 1999 heard from today's statement, the Government refuse to recognise the position, and this is having increasingly damaging consequences.
Responsible authorities today and yesterday have said that only 10 per cent. of processed food is reaching shops, that only 25 per cent. of all foodstuffs is reaching one major food chain, and that other food chains are in similar circumstances. It is also said that several major food companies have been forced to shut. These include Kelogg, Heinz, Cadbury-Schweppes, Cow & Gate, and no doubt many others. Thousands of tons of animal feed are locked in the docks. Cargoes of fruit are rotting in the docks and elsewhere. The consequence of this is that already certain basic foodstuffs are unobtainable in many stores. These include salt, sugar, butter, margarine, cereals and many processed foods. Bread will soon be in short supply because of the shortage of salt. Meat will soon be in short supply because the slaughterhouses will, I understand, have to be closed.
If supplies do not improve, the position will deteriorate in an accelerating fashion. I am led to believe that by the end of next week there will be serious hardship and, indeed, possibly hunger in parts of our country, especially for the old, the disabled and the poor.
It is clear that the unions have lost control over the strikers and that, in the words of a union leader, anarchy prevails. The Government have a duty to safeguard essential supplies. Clearly they are not doing so. This is a state of emergency, and it must be recognised as such by the Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) gave me notice this morning that he would ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the present food shortages throughout the country and the hardship that these will increasingly cause as a result of the picketing taking place by the striking lorry drivers.As the House will understand, I have obviously been giving a great deal of thought to this matter throughout the day. I listened with great care to the exchanges earlier today. I am prepared to look at the hon. Gentleman's appli- 2000 cation on Monday, with the possibility of a debate on Monday night. I think that that is the only action I can take at the present time. I give the hon. Gentleman an undertaking that I will look very closely at this application on Monday.