§ Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I beg to ask leave to move the Amendment 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 footplate staff a 3 per cent. increase from the beginning of this month and its consequences for industry and the travelling public.I am aware that this is not the first time that I have made this application. Therefore, I shall try to spare you tedious repetition, Mr. Speaker. However, it bears repeating that the issue is specific, because the documentation provided by the Railway Staff National Tribunal and the understandings emanating from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service are both ample evidence that the agreement was made by the British Railways Board to pay that increase.
That documentation and evidence are supported by the Trades Union Congress—the general secretary of the TUC has made a statement to that effect—and the case made by the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen is supported by the general secretary of the TUC, senior members of the TUC general council and a large number of other trade unions. Therefore, the issue is specific.
The issue is obviously important. I do not need to tell the House that the industrial consequences of railway stoppages on specific days are cumulative, because if railway wagons and rolling stock are not in the right part of the system it adds to the deterioration of services.
The issue is also important because, due to action on specific days, there is bound to be serious disruption to various administrative processes, particularly in the capital city and some of the large cities. The commuter services provided by British Rail are necessary to convey to and from work large numbers of people engaged in those processes.
Unfortunately, the situation has been exacerbated by what many of us consider to be obnoxious articles in The Sun on Friday and Saturday. Those whose methods and motives can be described only as dubious chose to go outside the established procedures to deal with such 616 complaints. Because they have done so there has been further disruption. Other railway men support that action. Therefore, no one can now doubt that the issue is important.
Most of all, it is urgent that the House should now have a chance to debate this subject. It is urgent to do so because the dispute has now been going on for more than two weeks. Further dusruptions are planned for this week, and there seems to be no end in sight, despite further intervention by ACAS. As no end appears to be in sight, and as the House has not yet had a chance to voice its opinion and assess the facts and figures that can be marshalled, it is urgent that the House should have a chance to examine those facts and figures. The board is in dire financial straits because of the attitude taken by the Secretary of State and the Government to the board's finances.
Therefore, because this is an urgent and important matter, I hope that the House will have an opportunity to discuss it as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he would seek to make an application under Standing Order No. 9 this afternoon.
The hon. Gentleman 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, namely,the failure of the British Railway Board to honour its agreement to pay all footplate staff a 3 per cent. increase from the beginning of this month and its consequences for industry and the travelling public.This House will have no doubt about the importance of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but it also knows that Standing Order No. 9 is not the only way by which it can be discussed by the House. All that I have to do is to decide whether it is of such a nature that it must be discussed tonight or tomorrow; otherwise the decision rests elsewhere than with me.
The House has also instructed me to give no reasons for my decision. I listened with great care to what the hon. Gentleman said but 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.