HC Deb 28 March 1984 vol 57 cc304-5 4.22 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the conduct of the police in the present mining dispute'". I have received reports from the Derbyshire area of the NUM that the police have set up road blocks on roads in the area, have arrested about 40 miners who were driving vehicles miles from the collieries, have impounded their vehicles and have compelled other passengers to abandon their vehicles.

Since I spoke to you this morning, Mr. Speaker, I now understand that miners are being prevented from the peaceful picketing of the pits—[Interruption]—in which they work, as at the Shirebrook colliery; that police snatch squads are being used to attack miners outside the collieries; and that others travelling to work, who have no connection whatever with the mining industry, have been hauled from their cars by the police.

This situation is specific. It is also urgent, and it is clearly a matter of public importance for several reasons.

First, the mining industry is central to the British economy and to the communities which would be devastated by proposed closures. The present dispute is already affecting the steel industry, and other coal supplies are involved; and the responsibility in this respect is a ministerial one. The problem of closures cannot be resolved by the police, behind whom the Home Secretary is hiding.

Secondly, the police action has no statutory backing, and by establishing road blocks the police are anticipating legal powers proposed in the current Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which has not yet been approved or passed by Parliament and is not the law of the land.

Thirdly, the national executive committee of the Labour party this morning unanimously passed a resolution supporting the miners and expressing concern at police operations as being a serious breach of traditional practices.

Fourthly, Ministers are seeking to present this as a matter of law and order, yet the House of Commons has not discussed the situation, an omission which itself is worsening the atmosphere because it appears that Parliament is not interested in the industry, in the dispute or in the maintenance of civil liberties.

For those reasons, I submit that you should give priority to this matter, Mr. Speaker, so that the House can hold an emergency debate under the Standing Order which is designed precisely to cover such a situation.

Later tonight there will be a debate on two orders concerned with miners' redundancy and concessionary coal. I considered carefully whether that would be an appropriate time at which to raise these matters. However, as these issues concern law and order and the police, it would be wrong for the urgency of this subject to be dealt with at a time when the House will be discussing separate and largely non-controversial matters.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield(Mr. Benn) 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 conduct of the police in the present mining dispute". I do not in any way underestimate the importance of the dispute which, sadly, is currently taking place. Having listened carefully to what the right hon. Member said, I regret to say that I do not consider the matter that he has raised to be appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10, and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.