§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
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 the General Council of British Shipping and the National Union of Seamen.The matter is clearly specific. The dispute has entered its fifth week. Efforts to conciliate by ACAS—the last being on Saturday—have failed and the dispute now shows every sign of being stepped up.
The matter is also of great importance. Merchant shipping is a vital industry to the economy, not least for the invisible earnings which it produces. The security and well-being of our seafarers is essential for the future prosperity of that industry. The dispute is damaging to the merchant fleet, the seamen and the nation's trading position. Ships are tied up all over the world.
The matter is urgent because each day the situation appears to deteriorate further, with attitudes hardening on both sides and with the ensuing bitterness which could seriously prejudice industrial relations for years to come.
The Government have a role and duty which so far the Department of Trade has refused to fulfil. They should use every opportunity at their command now—as the Opposition have consistently asserted—to seek to persuade both sides to accept independent arbitration with the widest terms of reference, incorporating not only the offer made by the employers and the payment of proper overtime earnings, which is the heart of the dispute, but the issue of the industry's international competitiveness, with particular reference to the developed maritime nations.
The door of arbitration is just ajar. The Government should see that it is now opened wide. The House of Commons should urgently be given the chance to debate this matter which is so important to our national interests and to put to the test the decision of the Government to stand back and abdicate responsibility.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before noon today that he would seek 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, namely, 613the dispute between the General Council of British Shipping and the National Union of Seamen.The House will have listened with considerable concern to what the hon. Gentleman said in giving the reasons why we should have a debate. The House will be well aware that this procedure is by no means the only way in which this matter can be discussed. My powers are strictly limited by the House on the question whether the matter is of such a nature that it must be discussed tonight or tomorrow. That is the extent of the powers that the House has given me.
As the House knows, I am directed to give no reasons for my decision but to take into account the several factors set out in the Standing Order. I listened with concern to what the hon. Gentleman said, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, that I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ That the Parliamentary Commissioner (Consular Complaints) Bill [Lords] be referred to a Second Reading Committee.—[Mr. Gummer.]