§ Mr. Speaker
There is an application under Standing Order No. 9. I call the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield)—
§ Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Further to the point of order raised on 26 January by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins), about the possible conflict of interest as a result of the links of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) with ASLEF and the Transport and General Workers Union, I seek your guidance about another possible conflict of interest. Should hon. Members refer to him as the hon. Member for Nuneaton or as the hon. Member for Wigan? I appreciate that Nuneaton's gain will certainly be Wigan's loss, but—
§ Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)
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 failure of the British Railways Board to honour its agreement to pay all railwaymen a 3 per cent. increase from January and the consequences for industry and the travelling public.I am extremely mindful, Mr. Speaker, of your remarks last week, but there have been some important developments since then. The matter is specific, because the dispute has already been referred to two sets of arbitration—the first last July, and the second last August—and both judgments have either been rejected or overturned by the British Railways Board. We are now told that the parties involved should accept a third form of inquiry.
The matter is urgent because, although an inquiry may be about to be set in motion, it will probably be inconclusive, not only because ASLEF has said that it will not attend it but because only yesterday the British Railways Board said that the inquiry and ACAS were no solution to the problem. Since I last made an application to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, there has been a specific occurrence. ASLEF has changed the days on which it intends to take strike action and that will obviously have a different, and perhaps more intensified effect on the railways. There is a strong feeling that the British Railways Board may retaliate tomorrow by closing, or threatening to close, the whole railway system.
I am sure that you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that those are serious and important developments. In addition, the effects of the strike are worse that they were, and it has been forecast that the board has lost about £100 million of revenue. The first day of action was 13 January. We are now in the fourth week of a major national dispute, and the time is long overdue for the House to have an opportunity to voice its opinion about it.
Many of us believe that the Government are responsible, in no small measure, for the dispute, and that this is the first example of the Government's new policy towards the trade union movement. However, I shall not discuss the merits of that now. Many of us are also concerned because the Secretary of State for Transport has voiced his opinion and has intervened in the dispute. However, he has done so outside the House. If the 311 Secretary of State for Transport intends to stand on the sidelines, outside the House, and to make inflammatory and misguided statements, many of us would submit that he should make those same inflammatory and misguided statements to the House, so that we may ask him questions and put our views.
If the British Railways Board decides tomorrow to close the railway system, many of us will hold the Government entirely responsible. For that reason, I make this application. The House should be given the chance to make its view clear.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he might seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the failure of the British Railways Board to honour its agreement to pay all railwaymen a 3 per cent. increase from January and the consequences for industry and the travelling public.The hon. Gentleman has introduced factors that have developed since he last made an application under Standing Order No. 9. He has also entered into the realm of speculation but, as he knows, I cannot join him in speculating about the future. The House is aware that it has the power, by other means, to discuss the issue if it feels that that must be done. I have only the limited power to decide whether the subject is to be debated tonight or tomorrow. That is the only power that the House has given me. However, hon. Members know well that there are other means by which this important matter can be discussed.
I listened to the hon. Gentleman's representations. However, the House has instructed me to give no reason for my decision. I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.