§ Mr. Speaker
I must tell the House than many right hon. and hon. Members have said that they wish to take part in this important debate. I remind the House that the debate will end at 7 o'clock and, as I have no power under the Standing Order recently agreed by the House to limit speeches to 10 minutes, I appeal to hon. Members to speak briefly.
I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)
I beg to move,That this House, noting that the Government postponed revealing its provocative decision to make a further £1 deduction in social security benefits for the families of striking miners until the last possible moment in order to stifle debate, noting too that this increase of £1 was neither automatic nor necessary but gratuitously vindictive when it has been introduced after eight months of a bitter strike, believing also that this increased disqualification of benefit will sharply inflame the bitterness of this dispute because it will be seen as the use of yet another weapon by the Government to starve the miners back to work through intensified financial hardship, calls upon the Government to withdraw this Order and to use negotiation, not the deprivation of families, wives and children as the means to resolve this dispute.The Opposition have demanded this debate because we believe that the deductions of supplementary benefit penalise the wives and children of workers on strike and are fundamentally unjust. In particular, we believe that this extra deduction of £1, eight months into a bitter strike, is exceedingly provocative, and gratuitously provocative, because it was neither automatic nor necessary and will greatly inflame and worsen the bitterness which already exists in the coalfields and elsewhere.
A man who is not on strike but who is in receipt of supplementary benefit for other reasons, who is married and has a child of, say, 10 years old, receives as from today's uprating, £55.15 a week, plus rent. This supplementary benefit level is conventionally regarded as the state poverty line, as the minimum on which a family can get by. If any Tory Member of Parliament thinks that it is other than the barest minimum for survival he should have a word with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris), who, in a famous televised episode, found himself unable to get by on that amount of money for even a week.
For a striking miner with a wife and a 10-year-old child, that minimum survival payment, on which a Tory Member of Parliament could not subsist, has today been cut back, by the order about which we are concerned, to precisely £16.05 a week, plus rent. That is a huge drop of more than two thirds below the state poverty line. I wonder how many Tory Members of Parliament, in all humanity, have any inkling of what it is like to be condemned to live on such a level.
The miner, as a worker on strike, does not receive supplementary benefit for his own needs. However, the deduction of an additional £16 a week means that the 619 miner, his children and his wife are systematically pushed down, not only to the point where they cannot get by but to the point of extreme personal hardship and growing destitution. The Opposition reject and condemn such a policy because it means victimising families and starving children in order to weaken trade unions and force their members back to work by sheer privation.
We also reject this policy because it breaches the fundamental principle of the supplementary benefit scheme, which is to provide sufficient for the basic necessities of life—food, fuel and housing. We reject it because it means treating the families of strikers worse than all other families on supplementary benefit, including the families of convicted criminals. We reject it as well because this reduction is made irrespective of the circumstances and the causes of the dispute, even where, as in this case, it was the employer who provoked the dispute in the first place by the provocative proposal to close Cortonwood only weeks after the miners there had been told that their jobs were safe for years.
By making this deduction the Tory Government are saying that workers are always in the wrong when they become involved in an industrial dispute and that they must be punished for exercising a right which separates democracy from dictatorship. That points to the central issue in contention here. Does today's Thatcherite Tory party—previous Tory parties have not had the attitude of this one—uphold the right to strike, or not? Their words proclaim that Tory Members do, and they are murmuring yes today, but they shamelessly resort to every economic and other device to make such a right unworkable in practice. That includes deliberate manipulation of the social security system to cut back the workers' entitlement so as to weaken their resolve. We have seen this done repeatedly during the dispute.
We have, for example, the continuous denial of family income supplement to miners' wives on the grotesque pretence that the families' incomes are not what they were in the last five weeks, which is the normal assessment period, but what they were 12 months ago before the overtime ban began. Now that that shameless pretence has been exposed and overturned by an industrial tribunal the Government are still preventing the wives of striking miners from getting their proper entitlement by stalling their appeal indefinitely.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
The hon. Gentleman is trying yet again to link the freedom to strike with the implication that it is society's duty to support strikers. Many right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Benches maintain that although they support totally the right of individuals to withdraw their labour, which is an absolute freedom, that does not necessarily imply that taxpayers should be obliged to support them when they do it.
§ Mr. Meacher
The hon. Gentleman has hit on exactly the point to which I am about to come. By far the worst form of deliberate twisting of the social security system is this infamous £16 deduction. In addition to the denial of benefit to the striker himself, it is a double deduction which clearly is meant not in any way to be fair but to cripple the ability to strike at all.
The Tories say that the unions should pay the amount deducted. During questions last Thursday the Prime Minister said: 620If the NUM carried out its obligations, those strikers would be receiving £16 next week."—[Official Report, 22 November 1984; Vol. 68, c. 400.]If the NUM had done exactly that, total NUM funds would have been exhausted within precisely four weeks. In other words, all the Tory platitudes about trade unions taking on their responsibility are a camouflage for bankrupting the unions, for making lengthy strikes unviable and for starving strikers into submission.
There is another reason why the Prime Minister's demand that the NUM pays this £16 is so wrong-headed and unjust. This deduction is being increased to £16 a week at the same time as the NUM, as every hon. Member knows, is no longer able to pay it because all its funds have either been sequestrated as a result of court action or, as a result of attempted sequestration, been otherwise immobilised.
I want to put a question to the Prime Minister or to her proxy, the Secretary of State for Social Services. I hope that the Secretary of State will answer it. If the only justification for this deduction is that the NUM should pay it instead, how can it possibly be right to make this deduction today when it is known that the NUM cannot pay? We want an answer to that question, and I shall give way happily to the Secretary of State if he will answer it now. The right hon. Gentleman declines to answer it. There is no satisfactory answer to the question, of course, and that is one central reason why we strongly oppose this contemptible order.
There is another reason. It is that the deduction did not have to be increased by £1 a week. To make it, unnecessarily, eight months into a bitter strike can only be seen as exceedingly provocative and vindictive.
Last Thursday the Prime Minister talked of the deduction being increased by "automatic" formula. It is not automatic. The order has been made under section 6(2) of the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980, but under section 6(3) the Secretary of State has an option, if he so wishes to bring in alternative regulations to effect an increase in the specified sum deducted which is lower than the rate of inflation, or no increase at all. Therefore, we condemn the Government, not because it is automatic, but because as a matter of policy they rejected that option.
We condemn, too, the pusillanimous manner in which the Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, have tried to hide behind the pretence of automaticity in the formula in order to avoid taking direct responsibility for a highly partisan and callous decision.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that unless I introduce secondary legislation to the House there is no way in which these increases will not go ahead?
§ Mr. Meacher
The Secretary of State is obliged by section 6 to bring in an order. However, that order gives him the option, subject to an affirmative resolution of the House, to bring in an increase of any size that he wishes and not in accordance with the formula that he has chosen. That is the key point.
§ Mr. Fowler
No, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. He does not understand the law. Even if I had not set down the declaratory order last week, the changes would have taken place automatically. The only way in which they could have been avoided was by my introducing affirmative orders in both Houses of Parliament.
§ Mr. Meacher
The Secretary of State is simply confirming the point that I have already made. He could perfectly well have brought in alternative orders secondary legislation — to have effected a different result. If the Secretary of State and his colleagues had any humanity, that is exactly what would have been done.
We condemn, too, the hole-in-the-corner evasiveness with which this episode has been handled. Had I not tabled a parliamentary question a week ago which forced an answer from the Government last Wednesday, I have good reason to believe that no mention of the increased disqualification of benefit would have been made before today. If the Secretary of State denies that, I shall be interested to know when, alternatively, it would have been made.
§ Mr. Fowler
As the hon. Gentleman asks, it was going to be announced on the Wednesday when it was announced.
§ Mr. Meacher
If the Secretary of State expects us to believe that, he must be extremely gullible. I am sure, from conversations that I have had with the Minister for Social Security, that there was no intention to announce this before today, the very day on which the order—
§ The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Antony Newton)
Without wishing to engage in some great personal wrangle with the hon. Gentleman, may I say for the record that I have no recollection of any conversation which could conceivably have given that impression? I wish to make it clear that there was no intention whatever to leave that matter until today.
§ Mr. Meacher
I did not particularly wish to bring this matter before the House, but, as the Minister has deliberately raised it, the conversation to which I am referring took place in the Norman Shaw North building after we had both taken part in a television interview. It was in the course of that conversation that the Minister clearly gave me that impression. If that was a false impression, or if I have misinterpreted it, I withdraw what I have said.
§ Mr. Newton
I do not want to hold the hon. Gentleman up, but he did misunderstand, and that should be clear.
§ Mr. Meacher
I accept that there may have been a misunderstanding, but, even if I accept the explanation which the Secretary of State and the Minister have given, it is extraordinary that the matter should be brought to the House only five days before implementation. Why was it only brought to the House at the last possible moment when, for example, last year the Government laid the corresponding order on 28 September, two months before implementation? Why was this the sole item that was omitted from the Secretary of State's uprating statement in the summer? Equally, why was that item not mentioned in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's autumn statement two weeks ago? Was it not because the Government hoped to short-circuit any reaction, to stifle debate, to prevent proper discussion in the House and, no doubt, to increase the pressure of hardship on miners' families while the Christmas bonus pay offer was being dangled before them?
§ Mr. Meacher
The Secretary of State will have an opportunity to speak immediately after me and he can make his points then.
Above all, we condemn this squalid little order because it is patently a strike-breaking instrument designed to secure victory in a bitter industrial dispute — not by negotiation, which is the proper way, but by intensifying and redoubling the hardship of women and children.
The Secretary of State admitted in a radio broadcast on Thursday morning that some families would "undeniably" be worse off. The fact is that all families subject to the deduction will be worse off. The full supplementary benefit uprating is needed simply to restore the purchasing power to last year's level, but all those families will be getting £1 a week less than is needed for that purpose.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
Will my hon. Friend accept that I endorse every single aspect of the arguments that he is making in his excellent speech? But will he endorse my view that this is the way to advance these arguments, and not by means of that damaging and ill-judged demonstration the other evening?
§ Mr. Meacher
As a result of that spontaneous demonstration there has undoubtedly been more attention given to this infamous deduction than would otherwise have been the case, and we also have this debate as a result of that demonstration.
It is ironic that on the day on which the Government are knocking £1 off miners' benefits they are also knocking £1 off the benefits of the poorest pensioners who get the heating allowance. Of course, £1 may not seem much to Cabinet Ministers on £41,000 a year—£800 a week—or to hon. Members on £16,000 a year, but to those on the poverty line or below it the loss of yet another £1 a week is heartbreaking.
If anyone needs a symbol of Thatcherite Britain 1984, it is those two deductions being made on the day of the so-called uprating.
Ministers rage at the intervention of the Churches in this deeply embittered industrial dispute. They do not realise that bishops enter industrial disputes not lightly, but only when they believe that deep moral issues are at stake. The provision of adequate food, fuel and housing for children and their mothers is one such issue. It is an imperative which should never be overridden in any civilised society.
Children have already died in this dispute, scraping for fuel in desperation. Before it is too late, the Government should reconsider what they are doing. For reasons of morality and humanity, we ask the Government to withdraw the order.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof,'re-affirms the policy established by the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980 that those on strike should be expected to contribute to the cost of maintaining their families; notes that, consequent on the general uprating on social security benefits, all but a tiny minority of strikers receiving supplementary benefit are being paid the same or more benefit, not less; acknowledges that the Government have as in previous years followed the requirements of the Act in uprating the "specified sum" to be deducted from benefit payable for strikers' dependants; acknowledges that the National Coal Board has negotiated constructively in reaching a 623 settlement with the National Assocation of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers on the central issues of the dispute; and condemns the failure of the National Union of Mineworkers either to meet its obligations to its members and their families or to move from its total unreasonable position in negotiations.'.The House will have heard and noted what the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) said. His charge is that we have stifled debate, yet at no stage did he condemn, as his hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) condemned, the action that we saw on Wednesday night.
§ Mr. Fowler
In a minute. The hon. Member for Oldham, West talked about spontaneous debate. Frankly, that is the best and biggest commentary upon the leadership of the Opposition Front Bench that I can think of.
§ Mr. Faulds
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that I passed him a note after the demonstration the other evening. Will he publish it in the Library, because in it I clearly spelt out my opinion of the Government and of his judgment?
§ Mr. Fowler
I am not sure that the nature of the hon. Gentleman's note lends itself to easy printing in any form. I am sure that he has ways of making his views known.
The central charge by the hon. Member for Oldham, West basically is that the Government are pursuing a direct campaign against the families of those on strike. Let me put two facts to the House.
First, the latest figures show that so far in this dispute £23 million has been paid out to the families of striking miners. Benefit is being paid at the rate of almost £¾ million a week. In addition, every recipient of supplementary benefit has rent and rates paid in full, through housing benefit, and the financial total is added to by the payment of child benefit.
Against that background, I say that it is frankly ludicrous to charge that the Government are pursuing a vindictive campaign against strikers' families. One would be hard pressed to find another country in the world where in such circumstances more is done by the Government.
I would find all those words of the hon. Gentleman a deal more convincing if at any stage in the dispute the National Union of Mineworkers had paid anything to its members' families at all. It has paid for pickets, but not for families.
The second fact is that we are uprating the specified sum at the same time as we are uprating other social security benefits, including supplementary benefit. The result of that is not a loss of £1 for families. The result is that the vast majority of families—85 per cent.—receive more in benefit, not less.
The latest figures show that on 6 November 35,000 strikers' families were receiving supplementary benefit. That figure has almost certainly now been reduced as a result of the accelerating return to work. On the basis of those figures, 30,000 families will be receiving more benefit this week than they did last week. All but a handful of the remainder will receive exactly the same as last week. We estimate that perhaps 100 or 200 families will be subject to a maximum weekly loss of 55p. That means that 85 per cent. of families will gain cash, and that no families will lose £1. Again I say that it is frankly ludicrous 624 to charge that we are attacking strikers' families when we are, in fact, in the vast majority of cases, paying them more this week than last week.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
Will the Secretary of State explain to the House and to those listening to the debate exactly who will be worse off? Is it not a fact that a striking miner who is a widower or divorced—in other words, who does not have a wife, but has one or two children to bring up on his own—is the person about whom the Secretary of State is talking? Is he not talking about those with the least amount of money, who are hit hardest by the cuts?
§ Mr. Fowler
About 85 per cent. of families will receive more cash, and the majority of the remainder will receive the same amount. The hon. Gentleman is talking about the man whose dependent wife has left home. To that extent the hon. Gentleman is correct, but he will concede that the only way in which such a family will be put in such a position is in relation to mortgage interest, which is already being paid, and about which there is controversy.
The heart of this debate is where responsibility lies for a striker and his family. The case of the hon. Member for Oldham, West is simple. He believes that responsibility rests with the public; in other words, that the public should bear the losses that are being made, should suffer any consequences of the strike arid should bear the total cost of support during the strike. He says that he has the NUM's support for that view.
Millions throughout the country — many of them earning far less than the miners—do not see why the public should shoulder all the responsibilities. They do not understand the action of a union which calls its members out on strike without a ballot and in damaging month after damaging month makes no contribution to their support. The public reject the case that the union has no responsibility, but that is basically the case that has been put by the hon. Member for Oldham. West from the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
Will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw that statement? The money that is deemed to be paid is taken from money that is paid to the wives and children of strikers. The state is not being asked to support the strikers. That has never been the position and it was not the position during the periods when I was on strike. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his statement.
§ Mr. Fowler
There is no question of withdrawing my statement. I have stated accurately the precise position. The hon. Gentleman is wrong about deemed strike pay. If he reads the 1980 legislation he will learn that the deduction—it was originally £12 and there is now the uprating — is made from the supplementary benefit which is paid. There is nothing to withdraw. I have stated the position.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the ravings that we hear are sickening to those of us who read that £20,000 or more changes hands via suitcases and is used to finance thugs on the picket line, when that money could be used to help families which are suffering deprivation? Is it more important to finance those who are breaking the law or those for whom this fictitious debate has been initiated?
§ Mr. Fowler
I think that many will agree with the argument that my hon. Friend has advanced. He is right to say that there is a responsibility upon the union in these circumstances. There are many trade unionists who reject the case that has been made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West.
Let us go back to the time when the Bill which introduced the deduction was passing through Committee. The former Member for Wood Green, Mr. Reg Race, was a member of the Committee. If we agree on little else, I think it will be common ground that Mr. Race is not one of those members of the Labour party who is likely to slip away in the night to join the Social Democratic party. During the debates in Committee Mr. Race was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) whether he thought that the unions had no responsibility to their members during any strike. Mr. Race replied:Of course, I do … I shall tell the hon. Gentleman my experience of strike pay. My union—the National Union of Public Employees—pays £5 a week in strike pay. That is in the rule book. Everyone on official strike gets £5 a week from the union."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 12 May 1980: c. 1007–1008.]Labour Members talk about their compassion and concern for the families of striking miners, but their remarks should have been addressed first to the NUM many months ago. Instead of trying to play conjuring tricks with foreign bank accounts, the union could have been using its funds to help its members and their families.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
Will the Secretary of State give some advice to the wives who are suffering? Is he aware that they do not have a vote within the National Union of Mineworkers? What advice will he give to a wife who begs her husband to go back to work and he refuses to take that advice? Why should she still suffer a loss of £16?
§ Mr. Fowler
The operation of the deduction has been clear from the beginning of the dispute. There has been no change in the rules and regulations governing it. Every member of the NUM knew what his position would be when he went into the dispute.
I deal now with the original issue which led to the debate, which is the uprating of the "specified sum" defined in the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980. The "specified sum" is the amount that is deducted from supplementary benefit that is payable to strikers' dependants. The deduction was introduced in 1980 to fulfil a commitment in the manifesto on which the Government were elected in 1979. It was introduced to establish a fairer balance between the responsibilities of the state and the individual in caring for his dependants. We took the view that the responsibility should not simply pass to the state. The practice is set out in precise detail in the 1980 Act. The original "specified sum" of £12 was defined on the face of the Act, and the procedure by which that sum should be uprated is set out in explicit terms.
The Act requires that the "specified sum" should be uprated whenever there is a general uprating of social security benefits. It requires also that the "specified sum" should be uprated by the percentage that is used to uprate national insurance pensions and the resulting amount rounded to the nearest 50p. This year the relevant percentage is 5.1 per cent., and that produces a final figure of £16.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Is the Secretary of State aware that the relevant word is 626 "strikers"? A group of workers who are not members of a trade union may feel strongly about an issue and go on strike. Other workers may be members of a trade union and notwithstanding an official recommendation not to go on strike may still decide to do so. Is it not clear that the Government's policy is to attack all strikers' families, whether they are official strikers, unofficial strikers, or even non-trade unionists? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that is precisely what the law says? Does he accept that the Government are against ordinary working people who go on strike because they cannot agree to accept what rotten employers are doing to them?
§ Mr. Fowler
With the exception of the last part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, his intervention is based on total truth. The uprating concerns supplementary benefit and a deduction from supplementary benefit. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that. That is precisely what I have been trying to put to the House.
§ Mr. Fowler
No, I shall not give way again. The Government can vary the formula only by introducing orders which are subject to affirmative resolution by both Houses. I see no reason of principle or practice why this course should have been taken in this year. In 1982 there was an industrial dispute in the Health Service, which, like the miners' strike, lasted for many months. On that occasion the deduction was increased by £1.50 to £14.50 and there was no challenge to that policy from Labour Members. I cannot see what there is in the NUM's dispute which would lead to the Government's taking the quite exceptional step of changing the law to prevent the increase taking place.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
In that case, I am slightly puzzled by the words in the Act. The Government put that power into the Act in order to vary the amount that they deduct. When did they write that in? Why will they not use that power now? If they will not use that power now, in what circumstances does the Secretary of State envisage using that power?
§ Mr. Fowler
Of course the Government have given themselves discretion in circumstances of this kind. I see absolutely no reason at this moment to change that position. Frankly, it is ridiculous to ask me to forecast the circumstances in which that would be done.
The procedure followed this year, as in previous years, is laid down in the statute. However much the hon. Member for Oldham, West seeks to deny it, the procedure takes place automatically, unless the law is changed. It takes place also whether or not I announce the change. All those points are well known to the hon. Gentleman
§ Mr. Fowler
I shall not give way.
Under the Act, I am required to sign a declaratory order, which records what the "specified sum" defined by the Act is. The order is not a regulation and is not laid before the House. By convention a copy is placed in the Library of the House, and that was done last Wednesday. I make it clear to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) that this order is not an Order in Council. It has nothing to do with the Privy Council and does not depend upon, and is not in any way an abuse of, the royal prerogative.
627 Then there comes the final and perhaps the strongest charge from the hon. Member for Oldham, West: that, in the words of the Opposition motion, the Government have sought to "stifle debate" on this issue. It almost beggars belief that, following the scenes on Wednesday night, the Opposition can solemnly table a motion accusing the Government of stifling debate. The fact is that, far from stifling debate, we gave, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West has conceded, more publicity to the announcement this year than on any previous occasion.
§ Mr. Fowler
If the hon. Gentleman really believes—I put it in the classic phrase of the hon. Member for Oldham, West—that only a spontaneous demonstration can draw the public's attention to this matter, it says little for the hon. Member for Oldham, West, who is the Opposition spokesman on social security, and his powers.
We informed the House by answering a question asked by the principal Opposition spokesman on social services affairs, the hon. Member for Oldham West, and accompanied that answer with a notice to the press, which is the only time that has been done. That strikes me as a peculiar hole in a peculiar corner if one is seeking to smuggle out an announcement.
Surely the real question on stifling debate is for the Opposition Front Bench to answer. The House clearly recalls that on Wednesday night the Opposition asked specifically for a statement on this subject. I came to the House to make that statement, but I was prevented from giving any but a few words of it and the statement was torn in two.
§ Mr. Nellist
Does the Secretary of State agree that it was not my tearing up of one page of his statement but his actions during the past five days that will result in tearing up the lives of pensioners, the unemployed, single parents and especially the families of striking miners? The actions of his Government are much more vindictive and violent than the action which resulted in the right hon. Gentleman losing a bit of paper on Wednesday night.
§ Mr. Fowler
I shall leave the public to judge the case that I am putting and the case that the hon. Gentleman is putting.
§ Mr. Fowler
I shall not give way. I do not believe that there can have been a clearer or more blatant example of stifling debate than what we saw on Wednesday night, yet on this central issue the hon. Member for Oldham, West preferred to maintain a modest silence during his speech. Perhaps he did not notice his hon. Friends standing before the Table. Perhaps he did not notice the statement being torn up. Perhaps he simply preferred not to notice and that is what now passes for leadership on the Opposition Front Bench.
The statement has now been made. I shall leave the public to judge, and I am content to rest on the facts that I have set out. The supine indifference of the Opposition Front Bench to the tactics of Wednesday night exactly mirrors their disregard for the violence perpetrated outside the House. It demonstrates why the Labour party will never form a Government.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
If the Government supporters believe the farrago of nonsense 628 that we have just heard, they will believe anything. The Secretary of State has shown conclusively that he fails to understand some of the basic issues in this debate. I was amazed that the Secretary of State quoted what Reg Race said in Committee. I was amazed also that the right hon. Gentleman claimed that the Government are doing so much for strikers' families.
The Secretary of State said that he was content to allow the facts to speak for themselves. He omitted to mention one fact—that this debate and the cheating of miners' families is taking up time at exactly the time when the Government are giving millions of pounds to the people involved with floating British Telecom. The Government are giving no less than £67 million to encourage people to buy British Telecom shares. The income of directors is soaring. The Government are giving £4 million to stockbrokers. It is ludicrous to take these few pounds from miners' families when the Government are giving those sums.
When the Secretary of State says that the families are getting more he is insulting the intelligence of the House of Commons. We know that they are getting more in cash, but their real incomes are falling. That is why the Secretary of State is misleading the House. It is real incomes that matter and are relevant, and it is real incomes that are suffering. The Government are guilty of mauling the incomes of miners' families during this important strike.
The Government are dividing the nation with this measure. They are indulging in strike breaking. The Government had the foresight in 1980 to bring forward the Social Security (No. 2) Bill, and now they are smashing a union and bringing up the heavy artillery. The Government, in a most cowardly fashion, are trying to smash the NUM. They are not hitting the union or the miners, they are hitting the wives and children. Could anything be more cowardly than that?
The Secretary of State has put forward a number of absurd excuses. Previously, he has said that strikes are the first resort. The fact that the miners refused to strike en two occasions shows that that is not so.
The Secretary of State was saying that at the heart of the debate was the fact that trade unionists should accept responsibility for their strikes. That showed that he does not understand the position. When he quoted Reg Race saying that NUPE paid £5 to its members, the Secretary of State doubly misunderstood. When Reg Race spoke in Committee, he was speaking only of NUPE paying £5. When an industrial union such as the NUM calls a strike, nearly everyone goes on strike. If the NUM were to pay strike pay it would be quickly bankrupt. The Secretary of State shakes his head, but he knows that that is right.
The Government's aim is to bankrupt the NUM. The Secretary of State will not say that, because he speaks in coded language. He says that he is prepared to accept trade unionism, but instead of using coded language the Government should have the courage of their cons action and clearly explain that they are trying to smash the trade unions. This attempt to smash the NUM exposes the hollowness of the Government's stance. When they say that they support the right of people to withdraw their labour, they mean that they support that right provided that the strike is short and ineffective, and provided that the strikers lose. When there is a tough, difficult strike, such as the miners' strike, the Government are prepared to play dirty.
629 In totalitarian countries, Governments say that they are prepared to support the right of free speech, provided that people do not speak too freely. This Government are prepared to support trade unionism provided that the trade unions stay on their knees and are prepared to fight a battle and damage the economy.
I believe that two consequences will follow from this measure. The first is that by hitting miners' wives and children the Secretary of State will strengthen rather than weaken miners' resolve. Miners will not be blackmailed. Last week, Lord Stockton said that they were the men who defeated the Kaiser and Hitler. He was right. The miners are brave men and brave men cannot be blackmailed. Blackmail will fail. It will be counter-productive. The Secretary of State is making the dispute even worse.
The whole of the trade union movement is becoming deeply embittered by the Secretary of State's cowardly action; that corrosive bitterness will gradually seep into industrial relations, and when it does British industry and industrial relations will be damaged. The whole of Great Britain will be damaged by this mean and cowardly measure.
I believe that Ministers will rue the day that they decided to give millions to stockbrokers through British Telecom and snatch pennies from miners' wives and children. This measure is disgraceful, divisive and destructive.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
There is an air of unreality and faked outrage about the debate. Listeners with no knowledge of the background —[Interruption.] Hon. Members can shout themselves hoarse, but I am going to be heard. Listeners to the debate might well go away believing that the Government had introduced a completely new and unexpected measure and one which would universally cut the amounts of money payable to striking miners for their children. All that is utter poppycock. There is nothing new about what has happened. Every year since 1980, as regular as clockwork, the "specified sum" —to use the jargon of the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980—[Interruption.] I can shout louder than Opposition Members, I promise them that.
To put the matter into words which even the Opposition can understand, when benefits are uprated, which happens every year so that the poorest and most needy among us can be helped to meet the extra costs of inflation and improve their position, the "specified sum" is increased also.
It seems fair that if the unions call their members out on strike that they must pay for the privilege.
§ Mr. Crowther
As the High Court, rightly or wrongly, has decided that the miners' strike is unofficial, it would clearly be unlawful for the union to pay strike pay. It would clearly be in contempt of court. Is the hon. lady asking the NUM to break the law by paying strike pay to its members when the strike has been said to be unofficial?
§ Mrs. Knight
It is remarkable that the hon. Gentleman can speak so clearly with his tongue so firmly in his cheek. As the NUM has been breaking the law since day one of the strike, we can dismiss that point.
It seems fair to me that every year when benefits are uprated, the "specified sum" should be increased. It cannot be fair that taxpayers should pay more when men are called out on strike by their union. Every year, as benefits go up in line with inflation, the sum deemed to be contributed by the unions goes up also.
To regard this measure, as apparently some hon. Members do, as something entirely new shows that Opposition Members have never considered what happened formerly. That justifies the suspicion that they do not keep abreast of legislation, have forgotten it, or do not bother to check their facts before coming to the House.
As for being a completely unexpected move, I suggest that Opposition Members study what has happened each year since 1980. In 1980 the disregard was £12; in 1981 it was £13; and in 1982 it was £14.50. It is funny, but we do not remember any violent demonstrations, tearing up of statements or seizing of the Mace when the disregard went up by £1.50. [Interruption.] Opposition Members are on thin ground. They say that this measure is an exception, but there is nothing new about it. The House was not even sitting when the disregard was increased by £1.50. We could not have had a debate on it in any case.
I shall return to the record, but it is not surprising that hon. Members do not like to listen to these figures. In 1983 the figure was £.15, and in 1984 it is £16. There is no surprise there and nothing unexpected to anyone who has looked at the record. What has happened this year is exactly in accordance with the formula set out in the legislation, but apparently Opposition Members have not understood it.
§ Mr. Rooker
I do not think that what the hon. Lady has just said is true. Can she tell us why the specified sum is based on an increase of 5.1 per cent., which is the increase in long-term benefit, whereas the benefit concerned is supplementary benefit, which today is going up by only 4.7 per cent.? The difference between 4.7 and 5.1 per cent. may not seem a large amount. Why have the Government chosen 5.1 per cent., which basically is the national insurance increase, instead of 4.7 per cent.? If they had taken the latter figure it would not, even with rounding up, have come to £16.
§ Mrs. Knight
I am bound to say, in as polite a way as I can, that I resent the hon. Member suggesting that the figures are incorrect. He can check them in the Library or anywhere else. He will find that they are accurate and that what is happening now is precisely in accordance with the formula in the legislation.
The next possible reason for the simulated red rage might have been that miners' benefits are being cut. I listened to the speech of the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). He amazed me with his inability to notice that 85 per cent. of miners are getting more. He concentrated only on the 100 631 or 200 who are getting less. I did not hear one syllable from the hon. Member about the overwhelming majority of miners who are receiving an increase as a result of the Government's action. For almost all the rest of the miners there is no change. Only a tiny minority—between 100 and 200—are getting less.
If the Opposition's rage is well founded, why do hon. Members not divert to that tiny minority some of the money that is being collected in tin boxes for the NUM? Those collections are being made, much to the rage of many decent citizens throughout the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Hon. Members may say that it is a shame—
§ Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Durham)
When the hon. Lady says that it is wrong for citizens to give money to impoverished women and children, she should be ashamed of herself.
§ Mrs. Knight
May I inform the hon. Gentleman that I have had complaints from various charities, which are allowed to collect on only one day in the year, because their collections have been severely reduced. In areas where there are Left-wing councils, the miners' representatives are allowed to collect every week. If Labour Members are really concerned about the needs of 100 or 200 people who will be receiving 55p a week less as a result of the order, they have plenty of money available from the collections to divert to people in need.
The Opposition have found an extraordinary reason for seeking to destroy parliamentary democracy. NUM money is being used to pay people to beat up miners and to threaten working miners and their families. The union is paying people to man the picket lines and to attack people's homes. They are being paid to hurl missiles at the police. If the NUM can pay people to do all those things, why can it not pay something to the 100 or 200 people who will receive 55p a week less?
The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) said that the Government are trying to smash the unions. The NUM is effectively smashing itself. Nothing could be more effective in smashing the union than the actions of Arthur Scargill. Indeed, I think that he is now becoming well aware of it. I am very sorry for the ordinary, decent miners who are being terrorised into a strike which they do not want. They have had no ballot on the issue.
The Opposition motion speaks of "stifling debate". I do not think that to quote an hon. Member's words from the Official Report can be said to be an attack on that hon. Member. Indeed, if I had regarded it as an attack on him I would have written to him prior to the debate. But the demonstration last Wednesday was led by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). When my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) took it into his head to wave the Mace about, he apologised the next day, at the first possible opportunity. On that very occasion the hon. Member for Walton, who led the riot last Wednesday, said:It does no good to parliamentary democracy or to the future of parliamentary institutions in this country if scenes such as those which occurred last night are repeated in the future.Who is repeating those scenes now?
§ Mrs. Knight
The hon. Gentleman continued: 632I trust that a firm decision will be taken to ensure that in future we do not have scenes of that kind as a result of the behaviour of right hon. and hon. Members on either side of the House."—[Official Report, 28 May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 770.]The hon. Gentleman says one thing when his party is in power and another thing when it is not. If any party is stifling debate, it is not the party to which I have the honour to belong.
§ Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)
I shall try to be as dispassionate as possible. I understand the feelings of right hon. and hon. Members who represent mining constituencies, but I should like to be as objective as I can and to put the alliance point of view. We have an amendment on the Order Paper and I shall refer to it during my brief speech.
The Government have right on their side when they say that the legislation has not changed since 1980. I do not think that anyone would argue about that. But I put it to the Secretary of State that the circumstances have changed in several respects.
The mining communities have been denied the right of a national ballot. I regret that, and it may put me in a different position from that of other Opposition Members. There have been scenes of violence, which again I regret. That may distance me from other Opposition Members. On the other hand, the Government imposed on the mining industry Mr. MacGregor, fresh from the steel industry where 88,000 jobs were lost. The Government gave signals to the trade union movement that they were antagonistic to the whole ethic of trade unionism. The Government also deliberately asserted, as part of their policy, that there should be high unemployment. Those actions by the Government have brought about a highly charged situation. It is against that background that we have to consider the Secretary of State's written answer.
I do not think that the provisions in section 6(2) of the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980 are right, and the Government should look at them again. Since then the Government have introduced legislation that will lead to more sequestrations of trade union funds. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) referred to that aspect. The Government are blind if they do not understand that the situation has changed dramatically since 1980.
§ Mr. Rooker
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that there is another reason why the Government should allow debate. No one has reminded the House that the Government stifled debate on clause 6 of the Social Security (No. 2) Bill in 1980. They guillotined the Bill half way through clause 1.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I am grateful for that intervention, and the House is better informed for it. I was not a Member of the House at the time, but I know that the hon. Gentleman has a distinguished record in the House. That is an important point, which has not yet been made.
The Secretary of State is right that, if there had been a national ballot, today we would not have been discussing the whole issue of deemed strike pay and clawback. Large bodies of miners are on strike, but they desperately want to go back to work. They are looking to the Government for succour and support. The way that the Government introduced the order through a written answer on Wednesday was wrong.
633 If the Secretary of State plays it by the book, he is right to say that a regulation under section 6(3) would need to be introduced. However, Governments with the majority enjoyed by this Government have discretion at just about any stage in the game. The right hon. Gentleman should have recognised that we are in a unique position. This is a unique dispute and we are at a unique time within it. It was wrong for the Secretary of State to come along with the order on Thursday, three or four days before the upratings were due. Whether it was calculated or not, he appeared to be maliciously and gratuitously disregarding the feelings of miners' families. Thus, he deserves the criticism that he is getting today. There is all the difference in the world between the three other annual upratings in September and this uprating, when the announcement was made only four days before the uprating was due.
The Secretary of State could have been doing two things. First, he could have been hiding. He could have been frit to come to the House, so he waited until the last moment. I do not believe that. I have given him the benefit of the doubt. The alternative is that he was considering not doing it. The House deserves an answer as to why this year, compared with the three previous years, there was a two months' difference, which is a significant difference. I hope that the Minister will address his mind to that and give us an answer when he winds up.
I was considerably heartened by the way in which the Minister of State handled the earlier incident of the withdrawal of some benefits to miners who had difficulty getting death grants. He skilfully managed to defuse that difficult and emotional situation just after he had assumed office. I took great heart from that. However, why was such an approach not extended to the order?
With regard to costs, as far as I can make out, only about 36,000 families are involved. Even if they all get £1, that is a very small sum of money in regard to the costs of the strike as a whole. I should like to question the formula in section 6(2) of the 1980 Act. The Minister will know, because he has done the sums, that 5.1 per cent. triggers the extra 50 per cent. and takes the figure up to £1. If the figure had been 4.99 per cent., the increase would have been 50p. There is a substantial difference because of the change. It means that there is now a cut of about 6.7 per cent. in miners' benefits. We can all argue about whether it is more money in real terms, but the figure of 6.7 per cent., which the change from £15 to £16 involves, is unfair and arbitrary. We have said in our reasoned amendment that we think that an element of compromise should have been involved.
§ Mr. Newton
I should like to make the position absolutely clear. It is in no sense an arbitrary figure. This is also in answer to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). It is defined as the general uprating percentage—the percentage that operates for retirement pensions. That is what is written into the law, and that is why the figure was 5.1 per cent.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I accept what the Minister says, but I am arguing that he had the discretion and should have been big enough and dispassionate enough to look at the matter and give us a compromise that at least would have let the Government come to the House and say, "We understand that there are problems. The law has been in effect since 1980, but we are prepared to make 634 concessions." The effect is that the Government are playing straight into the hands of the hard-line members of the NUM executive.
§ Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)
Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten the House as to the precise meaning of the phrase "Standard Sum Deduction" in the alliance amendment?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I do not want to go into the detail of that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The purpose of the amendment is clear. We are trying to get a compromise. I am happy to face the fact that it is a compromise. The mechanics of working out the compromise are less important than the principle involved.
The effect of everything that the Government have done is simply to play into the hands of the hard-line members of the NUM executive, and is against the interests of miners on strike who find it impossible to put behind them the traditions in the mining communities, which have been going on for years, and cross the picket lines. They find it almost impossible to be seen to support a Government with whom they have no connection or sympathies. They also find it difficult because of the equivocal position taken by the official Opposition in the dispute. More than anything else, it is impossible for them to face the Government's actions when they take such decisions in the way that they have.
The change is unnecessary, unfair, ill-timed and naive. I hope that the Government will consider changing their mind.
§ Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)
When this matter first came to the attention of the House on Wednesday last week, the declaratory order that gave rise to this debate was described by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) as almost without precedent. Of course, they got that completely wrong, as we now know, although the hon. Member for Oldham, West has yet to withdraw what he said last Wednesday. There is nothing especially unusual about the fact that they got it completely wrong, nor, normally, would it be of any significance, but it is significant in this instance. It is significant for this reason. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) said, orders precisely similar to the order that is presently being discussed were made in each year since the 1980 Act was put on the statute book.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West pays close attention to these matters. If there had been anything objectionable about the uprating process, the hon. Gentleman would have been very familiar with the sort of order that is under discussion. He would have known precisely the form that it takes. Had there been any question of it being objectionable, he and his colleagues would have raised objections to it. Perhaps the most telling sign that the indignation on Opposition Benches is bogus and synthetic is the fact that in none of those previous years did the uprating process evoke the slightest protest from the Opposition.
It is suggested that the position is somehow different this year because we are in the middle of a strike. Is it suggested by Opposition Members that whenever a strike is in progress at the time when the uprating takes effect, 635 the uprating should be suspended? That is demonstrably absurd. The purpose of section 6 of the 1980 Act is to make deductions from the supplementary benefit that would otherwise be payable to strikers' dependants. The whole purpose is that the burden of supporting those dependants should be shared between the trade union concerned and the taxpayer. It is ridiculous to suggest that whenever a strike is in progress, the uprating should be cancelled in some way.
Is it suggested by Opposition Members that the cancellation or suspension should not take place during every strike, but should take place this year because there is something about this strike that is particularly meritorious? If that is their view, it behoves them to tell us wherein they see the special merit of the strike. Is it especially meritorious because it is taking place without a ballot, in breach of the union rule book? Is it especially meritorious because, wherever a ballot has taken place, those balloted have voted in favour of continuing to work? Does its special merit lie in the fact that violence has attended it from the outset? Or do they simply think it meritorious because of their special affection for Mr. Scargill and Mr. McGahey, who have led it? It would be interesting to know the views of the Leader of the Opposition on that question.
We must not lose sight of the realities of the matter. We are discussing the extent to which the taxpayer should contribute to the support of the dependants of those on strike. We are discussing the amount which people—and many of my constituents earn a good deal less than the wage available to every coal miner—should contribute to the dependants of the strikers. We are discussing the extent to which those miners who are currently working should contribute to the dependants of those who hurl abuse at them on the picket line and threaten them with violence. Perhaps we are even discussing the extent to which Mr. Michael Fletcher should contribute to the dependants of those who attacked him or Mr. Stuart Spencer to the dependants of those who burnt his house. That is what we are really discussing today, and the House should keep such matters in the forefront of its mind.
Thus far, I have addressed my remarks to the official Opposition. I shall now consider the views of the alliance, whose spokesman is unable to explain the very term in the alliance amendment. Last Thursday the House was treated to a characteristic exhibition on the part of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Dev onport (Dr. Owen). I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here. I informed him that I intended to make some observations about his remarks. The House has become accustomed to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman characteristically makes feverish attempts to strike out a position which is different from that of the Government and that of the official Opposition. The House has seen his kind before. George Canning once said of Lord Brougham:The hon. and learned Gentleman having in the course of his parliamentary life supported or proposed almost every species of innovation which could be practised on the constitution it was not very easy for ministers to do anything without seeming to borrow from him. Breakaway in what direction they would, whether to the right or to the left, it was all alike. 'Oh', said the hon. gentleman, 'I was there before you: you would not have thought of that if I had not given you a hint' … There was no noise astir for the good of mankind, in any part of the world, but he instantly claimed it for his thunder.Lord Brougham was described elsewhere as "Mr. Facing-two-ways". We were given a demonstration of 636 such behaviour on Thursday which was more vivid than we have seen for some while, when the right hon. Gentleman asked a question during Prime Minister's Question Time.
We know that the alliance Members are anxious to attack the Government and to distance themselves from the Opposition. They therefore do not say that the Government should continue with the automatic process of uprating, or on the other hand that the regulation should be used so that there would be no uprating. They recommend halving the difference. That is the characteristic alliance approach to such matters. They suggest that the figure should be not £1, but 50p. That suggestion illustrates particularly aptly the absurdities into which the alliance is led by the desire to strike a posture for the sake of striking a posture which is different from the attitude of the Government and that of the official Opposition.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)
This afternoon the Secretary of State said that he could see no argument in terms of either principle or practice for behaving in any other way. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that as such a bitter and damaging dispute is going on, there is at least an argument in terms of political pragmatism for taking action which will not drive people into the hands of the extremists within the NUM? Will not this action only add to the suspicion that that is what will happen?
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman believes that his 50p will achieve that objective. I suggest that the way in which that objective should be achieved is by the holding of a ballot by the NUM. The members of the NUM could then express their views on their future, and those who are at present having to share the burden of supporting the dependants of strikers — even after the Government's measures — would no longer have to shoulder that burden because, after the ballot, everyone would return to work.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
The people to whom the order applies know what is going on. The Government may try to mislead the House or themselves, but everyone who is on strike in the coalfields knows what the Government are doing. They are taking money from the families of striking miners to force them back to work.
People in the coalfields also know that the Government tried to do it without telling the House. [Interruption] A written answer was put out in a press release last week, and everyone knows that if a number of hon. Members, including myself, had not stood before the Table there would have been no debate today. Everyone knows that perfectly well, because the Secretary of State said that he had no option, whereas section 6(3) of the 1980 Act, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has mentioned, gives him the option of preparing and presenting regulations which would allow a variation.
No one who is on strike—and three-quarters of the miners in north Derbyshire are on strike—has any doubt that this is part of a long process of fraudulent attacks upon the striking miners.
§ Mr. Benn
No, I am developing my argument.
637 One immediate example of the fraud is that on 6 November Mr. Justice Vinelott gave an order in court that would make it illegal for north Derbyshire NUM to pay any strike pay. The judge says to the union, "If you pay strike pay, we will jail your leaders." The Minister then produces an order which is based on a pretence that the union is paying strike pay. There is only one word for that: it is a fraud, perpetrated by the Government in combination with the court.
§ Mr. Benn
No. The hon. Gentleman must listen to what is being said by the people on strike. The people on strike know very well that the argument about the closure of the pits on economic grounds is another fraud. Nuclear power has never received a penny of private investment. Nuclear power has never been profitable. No one has invested in it. Why? The answer is that it is subsidised to the hilt by the Government, to produce nuclear weapons. The argument about the pits being uneconomic is wholly false.
People in the coalfields know well that we get oil out of the North sea at $7 or $8 a barrel and sell it to the generating board at $28 a barrel. Every unit of electricity generated by North sea oil is 40 per cent. more expensive than that generated by coal. The argument that pits are uneconomic is fraudulent, and people know it.
In the past few days they have also learnt that the Secretary of State for Energy, who made a speech about Mr. Harold Macmillan's compassion, is also a fraud, because while he was drafting and preparing that speech he was party to an order which would take another £1 off striking miners' families. There is no doubt that they expected that because, from the beginning, the Government's case against the NUM has been fraudulent. There have been fraudulent arguments about the economics of the pits; there has been fraudulent presentation of the argument about Cortonwood, when the Government broke their word; there have been fraudulent promises about there being no compulsory redundancies, which even Mr. MacGregor has to renege on because that might bring him into trouble with NACODS all over again; there have been fraudulent bribes to go back when the money with which the Government are bribing miners to return to work before Christmas belongs to the striking miners—it is holiday pay which was earned last year and which has been witheld by the NCB.
There has also been intimidation of the miners by the police, under the instructions of the Home Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Conservative Members who are laughing should go and see what is happening on the picket line. Labour Members who go out, as I do, on the picket lines every week see hundreds of police who are snatching people without any grounds for doing so. They are arresting women. I know of one woman who was arrested because she was alleged to have shouted something. She was released the next day, but when she was arrested the police left her three-month-old baby in a pram in a park. They did not notice that the baby had been left, despite her protestations. [Interruption.] I am not trying to persuade anyone. The Government's weakness and our great strength is that, even now, the Government have not the slightest idea what they have taken on. They have taken 638 on a large number of very decent people who will not agree to see their fellow miners being destroyed by the MacGregor policy—as happened in the case of steel.
We also have the fraud of the magistrates' bail conditions under which people are having their civil liberties taken away without any trial, by the use of bail conditions which have allegedly been approved by a judge. The result is that, I think, 6,000 pending trials have been deferred, and deferred for month after month.
§ Mr. Benn
I shall not give way. I shall leave my comments about the disgraceful way in which Parliament has avoided discussing the miners' strike to the end of my speech. There has been fraudulent use of bail conditions, by magistrates, and then the Home Secretary said that striking miners might face life sentences for picketing offences. Everyone in the north Derbyshire coalfield knows—
§ Mr. Benn
Everybody knows that judges are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, who is a Cabinet colleague of the Home Secretary, and that when the Home Secretary makes a statement about his expecting life sentences for picketing offences that is as clear, as has ever happened in my life, as an instruction from the Executive to the judiciary.
We also have the fraudulent figures that are published. We had another set today from the Secretary of State for Energy. I shall go over what I was able to mention only briefly in my supplementary question. In June the Prime Minister said that 50,000 miners were working. On 3 July she said that 60,000 were working, and on 25 October she said that 70,000 were working. Even the NCB claims that only 62,000 members of the NUM are working. We are witnessing a fraudulent presentation of figures by Ministers, which are taken up by the BBC and ITN—the strike-breakers' bulletin—trying to get miners to go back to work.
Throughout the whole of the dispute there have been only two debates on the miners' strike until today, which is only a half-day debate. One, in June, was on policing, and the other was at the end of July. I have tried several times to get an emergency debate. Mr. Speaker is bound by the Standing Orders and has never been able to find that the miners' strike merited interference with the normal course of business.
I am not here to criticise Mr. Speaker's judgment. I am here to criticise Parliament for failing to give due regard to the terrible hardship and anxiety of those who have devoted their lives to the mining industry, upon whom the future of that industry depends, and against whom the Government have launched a "civil war". Mr. Brian Walden, a former hon. Member, said so in The Standard last Tuesday. What we are witnessing on the picket lines is a war by the Government against the miners, the NUM, the trade union movement, civil liberties and the elementary decencies of civilised life. Parliament has hardly found time to discuss it apart from at Question Time.
I want to be brief and should like to finish with a warning to Ministers. They do not know what they are up 639 against. They believe, like Ian Smith in Rhodesia, that it is just a Mr. Mugabe and a few troublemakers. They have no idea that miners support Mr. Arthur Scargill because, for five years, Arthur Scargill has warned the miners that when the Government were ready they would try to close pits and destroy the NUM. Arthur Scargill is supported by the overwhelming majority of miners because he has proved to be right and what the Government have said from the beginning has been proved to be false, fraudulent and dishonest. That is why the Government will not succeed.
I do not know—how can one?—whether the violence that has been forced upon the miners by the circumstances, for so it has, will get worse. I am torn as to whether I should predict, as did one of my hon. Friends today, that this could become a Northern Ireland situation—if it has not already done so. However, responsibility rests entirely with the Cabinet, which appointed MacGregor and closed pits. Every single incident that has occurred in the coalfields since 6 March when the strike began is the responsibility of the Government.
I tell Conservative Members who came in on the great monetarist wave of enthusiasm that the Tory party has survived in the past by capitulating in time and by giving way to legitimate demands, perhaps later to regroup and try to recover the ground. We now have the first Prime Minister since a head of state known as Charles I who believes that there is some divine right in what he then did and she now does. I tell the House, to which I was elected 34 years ago on Friday, that unless Parliament gives justice to the British people there will be no peace in Britain. Even if the Prime Minister is right and with troops, the help of the BBC and fraudulent figures she can drive starving miners back to work—[HON MEMBERS: "Starving?"]—some have been driven back under those pressures—the Government's problems are only just beginning.
A higher level of political understanding has come in during the past nine months than at any time during my life, and I was born in the year before the general strike. People now understand the true nature of the Tory party—they sell off British Telecom to make quick profits for their friends who financed their victory and take money off the wives of striking miners. People understand the role of the police, the DHSS, magistrates, courts and the media in trying to drive the miners back to where they were years ago—on their knees—before what in time may again be private owners, for the Government will sell off the high productivity pits if they can get away with it.
I warn the House—I do so because I believe that to be one of the functions of an elected Member—that unless justice is given this battle will continue, with increasing bitterness and horror. The responsibility rests with those who began it with the pit closure programme. Today's mean and vicious little order, which we would not have debated without the action taken by some hon. Members, is only one of many attacks on the living standards of the finest group of workers in Britain—those who labour underground to give the country access to coal, our one natural resource in plenty, and upon which our future will be founded. The Government should be ashamed of themselves. If not, they will be defeated by the action which they have themselves provoked.
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
I overwhelmingly reject the Socialist Opposition's motion. Like Conservative 640 Members, I am sure that many thinking people in Britain today will reassert their faith in free and fair trade unions; that means one's freedom to join or not to join a trade union. All unions must be democratic, and that is patently and obviously not the case with the union now under discussion. Trade unions should lead their members democratically, and that means a secret and fair ballot, which has been denied to NUM members.
A trade union should primarily safeguard its members. Does the NUM look first and foremost after the welfare of its members? No; it is more interested in evading its legal and moral duties to its members and to the welfare of miners' families. It seeks aid from Moscow, whose satellite states deny free unions, and support from revolutionary Libya.
The NUM would rather purchase a number of prestige cars with personalised number plates than give welfare to its own members. Undoubtedly the care from the union to the mining community does not come from the NUM leadership. The extreme Left is keener on pursuing its political future than on a negotiated settlement. How can the NCB negotiate with an unrepresentative coterie which is constantly changing its ground on shifting sand?
Will the Opposition identify the financial source of violence—the violence that is seen so frequently on the picket line, the violence between miner and miner and the violence in the mining communities, all of which seeks to destroy the social fabric of mining societies?
On Saturday I met a number of families of striking Yorkshire miners, all of whom were sick and tired of this dispute. They want it to end. They are sure that the NUM leaders are motivated by political aims rather than by those of the industry. Those husbands and fathers are intimidated not to go back to work. One of the families to whom I spoke lives in the house nearest to a pit. I was asked why the NUM does not give support to its members through their subscriptions, which all NUM members have made over the years. The truth is that miners' leaders seek to subvert democracy, to undermine the police and the rule of law and to use the taxes taken from ordinary men and women in defence of an undemocratic strike. However, Comrade Scargill prefers to call it a dispute. He cannot use the word "strike"; otherwise he would have to call a ballot according to the NUM rule book.
As well as seeking to intimidate its own members, the NUM also intimidates other workers. The railmen in south Wales, Ravenscraig and north Nottinghamshire have been placed under severe pressure not to work, thereby contributing towards a £180 million loss on the freight side of BR. This nationalised industry has been drawn into a political strike against the wishes of that industry and the union's members and against the welfare of their families.
The role of the state is today multi-faceted. Part of its function is to ensure an adequate standard of living. That must go primarily to the unemployed. Those who are employed but seek to remove their labour in pursuit of a trade dispute must look to their own lobby, not to the general taxpayer.
This declaratory order will from today benefit 85 per cent. of families, including striking miners, through a supplementary benefit increase. Approximately 30,000 will gain, 6,000 will experience no change and a mere 100 to 200 will lose. Already, £23.3 million has been expended on supplementary benefit payments to striking miners' families. How do those who for years have contributed to taxes—those on old age pensions—feel about that? 641 The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who is more concerned with talking than about hearing the true arguments, referred to fraud. This fraud is with the NUM leadership. The essence of the NUM case is that, by adhering to the terms of one set of documents—"Plan for Coal", written more than a decade ago in circumstances very different from those of today—the present number of jobs can be secured indefinitely for all miners working in the industry and their children. The right hon. Gentleman misrepresents the plan in a number of respects, not least when he insists that it was substantially revised in 1977 to make jobs even more secure. No such revision took place. The plan was, and is, no simple charter of miners' rights.
Welfare must come first. This Government have shown that priority. The NUM refuses to accept its responsibility to its own members. I support the Prime Minister's amendment, and I hope that it receives overwhelming support in the Lobby.
§ Mr. Howard
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During his speech the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) cast aspersions on the judges, who he said were appointed by the Lord Chancellor, a Cabinet colleague of the Home Secretary. In particular, he mentioned Mr. Justice Vinelott. First, as a matter of record, Mr. Justice Vinelott was appointed to the High Court bench in 1978 by Lord Elwyn-Jones, then a Cabinet colleague of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield. Secondly, is it not out of order for hon. Members to cast aspersions on the conduct of judges, and should not the right hon. Gentleman be asked to withdraw his observations?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
I listened carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said. His language may well have been strong, but it was in order.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
It seems that it is perfectly in order to cast aspersions on trade union leaders unless they are leaders of the union of the judges and those who specialise in the law.
The debate so far has not made it clear that this is a Government attack on women and children who are not among the 123,000 people still on strike. That is important, because without the support of wives, and the women's support groups in particular, for 38 long weeks, this strike would have collapsed many weeks ago.
As any hon. Member for a mining constituency knows, tremendous support has been given by wives who have chipped in money, run soup kitchens and held raffles, jumble sales and fund-raising events. There has been a tremendous community back-up for the striking miners, without which the strike would not have succeeded.
§ Mr. Ashton
I shall not give way. The hon. Lady has had her turn, and many hon. Members still wish to speak.
Even if the miners' union had done what the Government said it should do and paid £15 a week strike pay, by now it would have had to pay about £18 million, and even the Government accept that it has only £7 million or £8 million in its coffers. It would have been impossible to pay strike pay, so how can it be deemed to be paying strike pay?
642 Many hon. Members have lived with the strike for the past 38 weeks—my telephone has been ringing from 8 am to about midnight seven days a week—and we know about the problems of hardship. The Government's attitude, through its civil servants in the DHSS, has been one of vicious vindictiveness, screwing down families by using every letter of the law to drive people back to work. When there is a dispute about a benefit claim, the answer from the local DHSS office is that the claimant should appeal, but appeals can take as long as 20 weeks to be heard. If the local office blatantly disregards the rules, and even if a Member of Parliament takes up the case, the answer is still to appeal.
Some of my constituents work in pits in Yorkshire, and some in Nottinghamshire. There have been great differences in adjudications in Yorkshire and in Nottinghamshire, although the cases are similar. In Nottinghamshire, apprentices have been classed as strikers, whereas the adjudicators in Yorkshire have said that apprentices were laid off through no fault of theirs and have granted them benefit. The same has happened with subcontractors whose pits have closed. The Yorkshire adjudicators said that they were not on strike, so they could receive unemployment benefit, but the Nottinghamshire adjudicators decided that they were on strike.
§ Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North)
In Wales and the west the commissioner has ruled that subcontractors should receive benefits, yet other authorities will not accept the commissioner's ruling.
§ Mr. Ashton
My hon. Friend is right. There are hardline adjudicators and soft-line adjudicators in different areas, and their decisions depend upon where the miners' families are unfortunate enough to live. In any dispute over claims, miners' families have been told to take their cases to the tribunal, but all the decisions have led to a toughening of the legislation. The Yorkshire adjudicator would not grant benefit to the subcontractors there, and eventually eight subcontractors at Maltby were forced back to work. There was picket line violence and riots because the Government forced them back to work.
A young couple came to see me recently. They have a 17-month-old baby who is brain damaged. The baby had to attend Great Ormond street hospital in London for tests, but the DHSS refused to pay the fares of the mother and father to London. The couple were told that they should appeal but, because the Government have removed the discretion of local DHSS offices in such cases, appeals take many weeks.
In the case of a family in my constituency who have a new-born baby, the toilet broke in half and the stench was coming up through the floor. They did not have the money to buy disinfectant. They had to tie a polythene bag round the hole in the toilet, and the DHSS would not give them a penny to get it repaired. We arranged for the local council—a Labour council—to do the repairs, but the family will have to pay for them when the husband returns to work.
The removal of £16 has been applied not only to wives but to girl friends. A young miner and his girl friend aged 18 were living together and the young woman became pregnant at the beginning of the strike. She is six months pregnant and has not put on an ounce of weight. She has bought no baby clothes. They are living on £6 a week in a flat next to a main road, they have no furniture and the 643 electricity has been disconnected. She is not even married to a miner, but because of the hard-hearted attitude of the DHSS, she will lose £16 a week. It was only after I intervened that she was classed as sick and received £25 sick pay.
Those who claim family income supplement have been asked to produce the pay slips of their husbands for the previous five weeks. They cannot do so, because the pit has been shut. There is no one at the pit to give them those pay slips, so their claims have been turned down. It is not the wife's fault that the pit is shut. She is not a member of the National Union of Mineworkers and does not have a vote in a ballot.
§ Mr. Ashton
The Government's attitude is that the union should pay strike pay, but the decision on that rests, presumably, with the members of the union. The wives and kids are not members of the union, and they have no say in whether the union should pay strike pay. They are not allowed to go to the branch meetings and vote on it, yet the Government punish them. They have taken away £16 from wives who have no say in the running of the strike.
Two weeks ago, one of my constituents left hospital with a five-day-old baby. She went to the DHSS and asked for extra money to buy fuel. The DHSS refused her. The social services department of the county council—again Labour-controlled — gave the family £12 to buy coal. The pit manager, who for many weeks had turned a blind eye to families picking up cobbles from the pit yard, said to the family, "You will get no coal until you go back to work."
There has been tremendous hardship in my part of the country. Little kids have been digging coal out of embankments, not because they are part of the strike but because they want to get a few shillings for Christmas. There were riots in Grimethorpe, where 37 people were arrested for picking up worthless coal from the ground. It was worthless because the Coal Board decided that no one would buy such shale. For many years no one cared who took that coal from the tip, but as soon as the families of striking miners tried to take it, 37 of them were arrested.
The removal of the £16 is not an isolated occurrence. It is part of a systematic attempt by the Government to starve people back to work. There has also been much incompetence in the DHSS. It set up a strike centre in Chesterfield, but it has no proper facilities, computers or organisation. I have met people who received no benefit for as long as five or six weeks, and that includes families with as many as five children. They were desperate. The milkman would not leave them any milk, and there was no question but that the children were hungry. It was only when I kicked up a fuss that they found Mrs. Noy's file at the bottom of a pile. She received about £190 in benefit arrears.
In another case, I received a letter from the Minister asking what my constituent was complaining about because he had not even appealed. Of course he had appealed. The officials at the Chesterfield strike centre found his letter at the bottom of the pile.
644 Another constituent, Mr. Kelsey, became fed up with the strike and quit Harworth colliery after six weeks. It was a working pit, but he left and got a job as a plasterer in Peterborough. The plasterer's job fell through, so he returned home and claimed unemployment benefit. He claimed that his wife should not have £16 deducted because he had finished at the pit. He had received his holiday pay and his P45. The DHSS turned him down. They told him that he was on strike, so he said, "How come I'm on strike?" He was told that he could benefit from the strike because when it was over and the coal board gave back pay, he could receive some. It has never been known, in the history of mankind, for a boss to give back pay to someone who has left his employment. This hard-line attitude of the adjudicators, who said that the man had never appealed, and then found his file at the bottom of the pile, is very bad. The man is still appealing, and he lost his job in June.
This dispute has been one long round of harassment, and of a systematic, vindictive attitude of "starve them back to work". I am not attacking the local DHSS offices in our areas, who have been very good.
§ Mr. Ashton
My hon. Friend is right. The adjudicators have been acting under instructions to be as tough as possible.
§ Mr. Newton
First, the hon. Gentlman must know that Ministers are not in a position to issue instructions to the adjudication officers. Secondly, before he and his hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) get carried away too much further, I point out that the position on disqualification from unemployment benefit arises from the Labour Government's Social Security Act 1975. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
§ Mr. Ashton
Tory Members had better not shout too soon. That Act deals with people who stand to benefit out of a strike, and its provisions have been used in the past, but in this case the decision of the adjudicators was that a man who had quit his job could benefit because there was a pay claim involved in the strike. They claimed that when the man went back to work and the coal board handed out the 5 per cent., or whatever, pay increase, he might then receive back-pay. However, the coal board itself said that there was no way that it would pay back-pay in his case. My constituent had received his cards, his holiday pay, his P45 and so on, but the adjudicators still ruled that he would benefit from the strike.
Attitudes such as this have ensured that 85 per cent of those who came out on strike are still out on strike. Whatever the headlines in the papers, whatever Ministers say about 7,000 or 5,000 going back, in percentage terms, 85 per cent. of those who came out have not gone back. If anything has caused that, it is the hard-hearted attitude of those trying to force people back. The £16 change last week was a major error by the Government. People were beginning to go back to work, but their opinion was hardened by this change. They said that they would not have their noses rubbed in it and would not be forced out, and decided to stay out last week. The Government dropped a clanger with this £16, and I think that they are already regretting it.
§ Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not extraordinary 645 that we had a passionate demonstration late the other night, a passionate request for a statement and for this debate, passionate speeches from Labour Members about the subject, but after all that only 20 of them are here for the debate?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point, but it is not a point of order for me.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
I start by taking this opportunity to answer some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who made a fraudulent speech—that is, one about fraud, as he said. He made several points upon which we could not question him because he felt unable to give way. First, he made the direct accusation that people who had been arrested were being held on bail for an unnaturally long time to keep them out of the action on the picket line. He and the House must know that the Government have provided more magistrates to expedite the hearing of cases of those arrested.
Another fraudulent point was the repeated accusation about the denial of freedom of speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford and Spalding (Sir K. Lewis) has already made my point by saying that it was at the Opposition's request that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was prepared to come to the House late at night to make a statement. The opportunity to make that statement was denied, and that outrageous behaviour not only denied my right hon. Friend freedom of speech, but denied right hon. and hon. Labour Members the freedom to question him.
Labour Members scored their usual own goal when they did that, because the publicity has not been for the merits or demerits of this case, but for their outrageous behaviour.
§ Mr. Forth
The next piece of fradulence perpetrated by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield was his ridiculous suggestion that the violence on the picket line is being caused by the police. I and my colleagues are still unsure why it is that when, in some places, there are several thousand pickets massing to persuade a handful of miners not to go to work, and thousands are armed, often with missiles and other implements, the police are expected not to intervene to protect the small minority of workers who want to go back to work.
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's comments, particularly as a Labour councillor in my constituency, who was not even standing on the picket line, but was there as an observer of the pickets last Tuesday, was pulled off a wall by the police and dragged along the floor. His face was badly bruised, his nose was injured, and his wife, who went over to help him, was kicked in the stomach by the police. Will the hon. Gentleman condemn such behaviour equally? He is fond of condemning the pickets, but violence should be condemned wherever it arises.
§ Mr. Forth
Yes, I would unhesitatingly condemn any such incident as and when it occurred, but the hon. Lady must accept that that incident, if it happened, would not have occurred had there not been excessively large 646 numbers of pickets which required a large police presence. This is the point which Conservative Members wish to emphasise over and over again. Nobody has any objection to the presence of six pickets seeking peacefully to persuade their colleagues not to go to work. That has always been accepted by Conservative Members. We defend the rights of individuals to withhold and withdraw their labour, and the right of other individuals peacefully to persuade others. However, we will always condemn activities such as those which we have had to witness, which have given rise to incidents such as that which the hon. Lady has described.
§ Mr. John Powley (Norwich, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a laid down procedure for anybody who wishes to instigate complaints against the police force? That is laid down in statute and any member of the public can take advantage of it, and can even get legal aid to do so. Should there not also be a complaints procedure against the NUM and its intimidation, so that complaints about its members can be investigated as well?
§ Mr. Forth
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he is right. Whereas the public have the right to make complaints about the police, and have those complaints dealt with, I am not certain where those who have complaints against the activities that we have seen on the picket line can go to complain. There is not an appeals procedure within the NUM for its members to complain about their colleagues' activities, and I am sure that Labour Members will wish to put that right.
There is a problem behind this most interesting debate. Every Conservative Member defends the right of individuals to withhold their labour within the properly constituted context, and we have never sought to deny that. It is an absolute freedom which has always been guaranteed within our constitution and by this Government. However, we cannot support the concept of requiring the taxpayer to fund striking activity.
Many people would question why it is that they as taxpayers are being required to give support and succour to people who have withdrawn their labour. Many would ask what the role of trade unions is in this context. Trade unions can hold a ballot and decide to withhold labour, and trade unions are free, as they always have been, to raise and accumulate funds for the benefit of their members. If these funds are not to be used to help the legitimate ends of the strike, for what will they be used?
During today's debate we have heard repeated allegations from the Opposition that in no way could it be expected that the vast resources of the NUM should be used to help the NUM's own members who are in diffculty. Those allegations sit ill with the examples that we see of the NUM trawling the world for money wherever it can be found and of secret movements of funds through Irish banks to American banks in an attempt to avoid the law. How does the NUM see fit to take its members' money away from this country, where it could help its members who are in difficulty?
§ Mr. Nellist
Does the hon. Gentleman support his Government who, in easing exchange controls three or four years ago, allow £32 million—four times the total assets of the NUM—to leave the country every day and to trawl the world looking for higher profits on the basis of the super-exploitation of workers in Asia and Africa? 647 When the hon. Gentleman talks about money going round the world, why does he not also talk about the Prime Minister, her son, Oman and £300 million?
§ Mr. Forth
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I thought that he was amongst those who were constantly asking us to put our funds into under-developed countries. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot criticise Western capitalism for seeking to provide employment for people of the under-developed countries and then expect the contrary to apply. It is a perfect example of the doublethink and doublespeak that we have had to put up with throughout today's debate.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) said that the Government were being provocative. He sought to imply that somehow the Government were taking a provocative and deliberate action at a particularly sensitive time. One of my colleagues asked whether this implied that what in any event had happened every year for the past four or five years and therefore was fully to have been anticipated should not have taken place this year simply because the miners were on strike. If that is the implication, it is an extremely dangerous precedent.
Bearing in mind that we are dealing not just with benefits for miners on strike, but with benefits for anyone who may withhold his labour, it is a dangerous and seductive argument to suggest that somehow the Government should not have taken this action, in deference to striking miners. That is a peculiar argument. It suggests that the Government should intervene in a process which has been followed for the past four or five years without argument and give special treatment to striking miners. That is an odd request for anyone to make in the current circumstances.
When we consider the hardship caused throughout society, not just to the strikers and their families, but to many other people who are in the process of losing their jobs because of the miners' strike, it sits ill with the Opposition to make accusations of the sort that they have attempted to make today and have failed to make stick with any credibility.
I should much prefer to see the Opposition coming forward with positive, credible and reasonable suggestions about how the Government should act in these cases, instead of making carping and stupid comments which will help no one and will be positively counter-productive. If they could move to a more positive and helpful attitude, the country would thank the Opposition for it.
§ Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) talked about positive suggestions to resolve the current dispute in the coal mining industry. I am tempted to remind him that it is about jobs. To my certain knowledge the hon. Gentleman holds at least two jobs. Perhaps he should consider releasing one of them to someone who is without a job—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which two?"] I understand that the hon. Gentleman is also a Member of the European Assembly.
§ Mr. Barron
Then perhaps we should have had this debate earlier in the year.
No matter what has been said by the Secretary of State and by many of his right hon. and hon. Friends today, no 648 one can get away from the fact that because of the Government's decision the vast majority of miners' families receiving supplementary benefit will receive less in real terms this week than they did last week. Anyone who tries to hide from that is denying fact. The deemed payment rising from £15 to £16 cannot be seen as anything more than a callous attack on the wives and children of striking miners.
The increase is made under the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980. That is one of the most despicable and pernicious pieces of legislation that even this Government have ever dared put through the House of Commons. It exists purposely to try to defeat strikes, but even more it is an attack on thousands of people. Government supporters echo their belief in the right of any worker to go on strike, and then they proceed to attack anyone daring to take strike action, and not just with this deemed payment provision.
Every week at my surgery I have bigger and bigger queues of people who are suffering under the supplementary benefits legislation and the other provisions of the 1980 Act. Only this week a constituent of mine with four very young children discovered that her washing machine had broken down. She applied for an urgent needs payment so that she could wash bedding and nappies for her family. She was told that as a consequence of the legislation passed in 1980 there was no urgent needs payment for the repair of a washing machine because her husband was on strike. If he had been in prison his wife would never have been at my surgery asking me to try to get her money from the DHSS.
§ Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells)
Did the hon. Gentleman ask his constituent whether her husband had inquired from the NUM if any of the money in the suitcases was available to repair the washing machine?
§ Mr. Barron
As I understand it, the suitcases are now in the hands of the judiciary, and I shall be dealing with that matter later.
This morning I received a letter from the local office of the DHSS. It is a great pity that the Secretary of State has left the Chamber, because I should like to have read it to him as well. It concerns a constituent of mine, a Mr. M., who works at Kiveton Park colliery. He is a diabetic. He has asked for nothing from the state for himself because up to 5 October 1984 he lived on his wife's earnings. He was then given £6 a week because his wife's earnings were not very big. He asked for some special dietary help to pay for the food that his diabetic condition made necessary. The letter reads:I am sorry that I am not able to be more helpful but I trust that this information will assist you in advising your constituent.Dietary needs beyond a certain level are not met for people who are deemed to be on strike.
I repeat that I believe that, the legislation passed by this House in 1980 is one of the most pernicious and filthy laws that could ever be passed by any Government.
Those are only two of dozens of people who are in need of help but cannot get it because they are involved or deemed to be involved in a trade union dispute.
Conservative Members say that this measure is economic and that the legislation has existed for four years. But let me go back to an article in The Economist in 1978 on a Conservative party policy group report on nationalised industries. Its author was the Secretary of 649 State for Transport—now a member of the Cabinet. The article talks of industrial disputes and how a Conservative Government would handle them and says:The group believes that the greatest deterrent to any strike would be 'to cut off the money supply to the strikers, and make the unions finance them'.That Conservative party policy document was leaked to The Economist in 1978.
That is what the Government have been trying to do. They have been prepared to stop dietary allowances and unemployment benefits to retired miners who agreed before the strike to retire. They have been prepared to use it to take £15—now £16—a week off miners' wives and their families. They have also been prepared to stop the urgent needs allowance and many other things.
How can the NUM pay any money? Had it done so, the Minister knows that after a few weeks of the strike the union would have been bankrupt. But how can it pay that money now when its funds have been sequestrated by Britain's judges? How can the north Derbyshire area of the NUM pay any money after a judgment in the High Court on 6 November this year by Mr. Justice Vinelott that it cannot use its funds to finance the strike in any way? The Conservative party is baying about the need for the NUM to pay its members, and it smacks of a conspiracy.
The uprating will be seen by the nation as an attack on the wives and the families of miners who are on strike and on others whom the Conservative party says have a right to strike. Yet as soon as that right is asserted the Conservative party attacks them in one of the most terrible manners possible.
The Prime Minister's amendment says that the NCB has negotiated with NACODS and come to a good agreement. That was put in great doubt at Question Time today when compulsory redundancies became an area of disagreement. When compulsory redundancies were mentioned two months ago in the House there was no qualification as there was from the Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box today. It now looks as though part of the agreement with NACODS only a few weeks ago is dodgy.
The amendment condemns the NUM for its failure to meet its obligations to its members. If the union had met its obligations to its members it would have been bankrupt within two or three weeks. People who have lost limbs working for the NCB may be fighting in the High Court now. Money is needed for such people to fight for rightful compensation. To deny that would be irresponsible and the NUM must ensure that it has funds to fight on behalf of its members in such circumstances. If the NUM had become bankrupt after four weeks, would the Government be here today saying that the NUM should meet its obligations to miners' families?
The document leaked to The Economist in 1978 had other things to say about what the Conservative party proposed to do in government. The amendment talks about the intransigence of the NUM over the past nine months and the fact that it will not move on this strike. That is not true. The NUM has moved in relation to closures during the dispute. The Conservative party's policy group report on the nationalised industries, scribed by the Secretary of State for Transport, said:The group believes that the most likely battleground will be the coal industry.The Labour party is often charged with using emotive language such as "battleground". The article continued 650They would like a Thatcher government to: (a) build up maximum coal stocks, particularly at the power stations; (b) make contingency plans for the import of coal; (c) encourage the recruitment of non-union lorry drivers by haulage companies to help move coal where necessary; (d) introduce dual coal/oil firing in all power stations as quickly as possible.The last paragraph of the article says:There should be a large, mobile squad of police equipped and prepared to uphold the law against violent picketing. 'Good non-union drivers' should be recruited to cross picket lines with police protection.What I have said today is the truth behind the miners' dispute. We have a chance to bring the matter up again later but it is important that the truth behind the dispute, behind the pernicious legislation put on the statute book by the Government in 1980, and behind the Government's action today in attacking the wives and children of miners, should be put firmly on record so that our children can say that they will never again have a Government in power who abuse their position as this Government are doing.
§ Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)
It is sometimes assumed that my constituents are well-heeled citizens living in the leafy suburbs. Some of them are senior people in well-paid positions in commerce, industry and government, but a large number of them are perfectly normal, reasonable, moderate people, living on moderate salaries, with a range of jobs, and many of them are in receipt of small pensions. They are paying income tax, which is being spent by the Government in a wide variety of ways for which the House is responsible. Many millions of pounds are paid out to those who qualify for supplementary benefits. It is as well to remind ourselves that, since the miners' strike began, £23 million of taxpayers' money has been spent to pay supplementary benefit to strikers' families.
I and my constituents support the right of anybody to strike and to withdraw his labour, but I and my constituents think that it is entirely reasonable that when people do so the union should pay strike pay from its funds. My constituents support the law which assumes that when supplementary benefit is provided, an amount of strike pay has been paid. That applies in any industrial dispute, not simply the one that is the main topic of our discussion today.
In this dispute the NUM has chosen not to pay strike pay. We have not yet heard a word of justification as to why it has not spent a penny of its funds on strike pay. We know that the NUM has about £80 million in assets from which it could pay strike pay, but it did not pay right from the beginning. The court order has been mentioned, but if from the beginning the union had made it clear that it would pay strike pay and had put funds aside to meet those demands, the court would have acted differently in the circumstances, which in any case arose from the action of the miners' leaders. The court action was entirely avoidable.
I wonder why people at home and abroad are being gulled into sending food parcels to miners. Why are foreign Governments being invited to send money to socalled starving miners who have £80 million of assets available to them if they care to use them?
The NUM has been paying those who are willing to stand on the picket lines. We all know the result of that. We have seen nightly on television what has been happening on the picket lines. My understanding of a 651 picket is someone who is there peacefully to persuade others not to work. It does not need 6,000 pickets to prevent six people from going to work.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there are only six pickets on a picket line they should be allowed to speak to the people who are going into work?
§ Mr. Sims
I certainly accept that if there are only six pickets it is reasonable that those seeking to go to work should be given the opportunity to hear what the pickets wish to say and to turn back or go in to work, as they wish. That is what pickets are supposed to do. It does not need 6,000 pickets to persuade half a dozen people not to go to work. The scenes that we have seen every day are not Tory scare stories. We have seen those scenes in the newspapers and on television every night. It is mob rule.
Perhaps the saddest feature of the past week is that the mob rule that we have seen on the picket lines has reached the Chamber. Perhaps the scenes that we saw here on Wednesday were not that surprising. After all, we know the attitude of the Militant Tendency to Parliament.
I note how few of those who sought to bring Parliament to a halt last week are present for the debate. A few of the same faces are here, but those who seem willing to pack the Floor to stop debate seem less willing to take part in a debate. Perhaps that demonstrates their contempt for Parliament.
I should like to have heard from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) a denunciation of, or at least a dissociation from, the scenes in the Chamber on Wednesday. We have not heard that, so we must assume that, by acquiescence, the leadership of the official Opposition accepts what went on.
No doubt I shall be reminded of the so-called Mace incident. I was in the House at that time and I recall clearly that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) took the earliest opportunity to apologise to Mr. Speaker and to the House for what he had done. I look forward to hearing a similar apology from the hon. Members who took part in Wednesday's demonstration, which did not merely interrupt Parliament, but brought our proceedings to a halt.
The pickets have been paid, but the union has not been paying its members who are on strike. References have been made to starving the miners back to work and to the wives and children of miners being deprived. Who is doing the starving? Who is doing the depriving? Is it the Department of Health and Social Security? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] £23 million? Depriving?
§ Mr. Sims
No. I wish to draw my remarks to a close and to give my hon. Friends an opportunity to speak. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity. He does not usually miss it.
The Opposition motion asks, in effect, for £16 more to be paid to the family of every striker. No doubt we shall be told that politics is the language of priorities. I am a strong supporter of the Government, but I do not always see eye to eye with them. Indeed, I felt unable to support the Government on Thursday, when I abstained on the vote 652 on cuts in the BBC external service, the British Council and overseas aid. Perhaps that shows where my priorities lie.
I will not be a party to asking my constituents to pay even more benefits to the families of striking miners. The strike is unnecessary and has been called by a union which has ample assets, but is unwilling to use them for its members.
§ 6.5 pm
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) put the case exceedingly well and we are all glad that he had the opportunity to deploy that case.
When the Government introduced the 1980 Act, they were a mean and vicious Government and the longer that they have been in power, the more mean and vicious they have become. Ministers and their supporters are equally mean and vicious towards anyone who dares to go on strike.
I have heard Conservative Members say how much they favour the principle of working people withdrawing their labour, but they go on to say how much they also support money being taken from the wives and families of strikers, whether or not those workers are in a union—the Act says nothing about unions paying strike money.
Many workers who have never been members of a trade union have withdrawn their labour because they felt that there was nothing else that they could do. Under the Act, they are deemed to have paid £16 a week to their families, even though they may not have a penny. That means that wives and children are being acted against by this mean and vicious Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), who was a miner before becoming an hon. Member, admirably put the case for the miners. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), the Opposition spokesman on energy, and I were shop-floor workers, we were involved in many industrial disputes and we remember that under Labour Governments and even under the Macmillan Government it was recognised that although the striker never got a penny, his wife and family received the same benefits as anyone else in deprived circumstances. This vicious and mean Government brought in the legislation to deprive working people's families of those benefits. It is an absolute disgrace.
Conservative Members seem to be worried about the fact that I and some of my hon. Friends stood in front of the Mace last week. I make no apologies for that. It was not an act of violence. Conservative Members and newspapers which have dared to suggest that there was violence are lying. They are liars to suggest that there was violence. I remember violence in the House. I recall when a man who is now Secretary of State for Defence picked up the Mace, waved it round his head and began to charge at the Opposition Benches. That was a real act of violence. I am not surprised that he apologised the next day. So he should have done.
What we did was something that I saw Dame Irene Ward do. The hon. Lady walked from the Back Bench and stood in front of the Mace. She was thrown out of the House. She took that action because she felt so strongly about an issue.
What about the history of such action? F. E. Smith,—a predecessor of mine from Walton, where the people 653 have guts — and his Conservative opponents to the Government stopped Asquith from speaking for half an hour. We did nothing like that. It is a lie to suggest that we acted violently. What we did was to say to the Government that after their final act against the miners and their families, "enough is enough". For years we have had to tolerate this legislation. For years we have seen how it has operated against workers and their families. The time came when we decided that we had to make an extra demonstration. It was not just a question of discussion; we had to state where we stood and, if need be, accept the consequences of our action. None of us thought that the House would be suspended. We were prepared to be suspended ourselves. That is the truth and I put it on the record.
§ Mr. Fowler
Does the hon. Gentleman also defend his hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) in tearing my statement from my hands and tearing it in half? Does he defend that?
§ Mr. Heffer
In the words of Barbara Castle on television the other day, I can say only, "Poor dear."
The truth is that the Government are determined to try to starve the miners back to work. They have intervened against the miners from the word go. My right hon. and hon. Friends have made valiant efforts to achieve a settlement round the table, but at each stage the Government have failed to support any attempt at a settlement. Instead, they have come out against any settlement and have done everything they can to stop it. That is the reality and the Government's last move is a deliberate attempt to drive the miners back to work.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends that the miners will not so easily go back to work. We should remember that Lord Stockton said in the House of Lords that we are talking about special people. These are working people who do a job that no Government Members, or most Opposition Members, would do. I should not want to go down into the bowels of the earth every day to earn a living. I have had to work on top of buildings, but that is a damned sight easier than working under the ground. Whatever the miners get they are entitled to it. Today they are being driven back, as they were in 1926 by a previous Tory Government who tried to break the power and influence of the miners because they are at the forefront of the working class. They are struggling for decent working conditions, decent wages and the maintenance of the trade union movement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) was 100 per cent. right when he said that the Government's strategy is to create a number of profitable areas in the minefields and to hand them over to private enterprise. That is the Government's strategy. That is what they are trying to do. They are doing that in other spheres.
We all deplore the fact that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is in hospital because of the IRA bombing, but he told us that once. He was told by his hon. Friends not to say it because it was not right, but the Government are endeavouring to do that.
The Government have waged the class war; our people have not. From the word go the Government, with their massive police presence, have waged the class war. What about the violence described by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd)? I never hear 654 people talking about the violence used by the police against ordinary people and against those who are not even involved in the dispute. Whether the Government like it or not, they will not be able to destroy the trade unions or the miners. They will not be able to destroy our working class solidarity because it is ours. We got it; we built all our achievements and advances on the basis of it. No matter how the Government try we shall win because history is on our side.
§ Mr. John Powley (Norwich, South)
Hon. Members may think that the fair green fields of Norwich and Norfolk are a long way from the minefields. So they are. However, my constituents have to accept the responsibilities for many of the actions in the mines and in the dispute, and they do not like the consequences.
I say this more in sorrow than with any other emotion, but the actions in the House last Wednesday will result in the Conservative party receiving public support. Those who are involved in the dispute will lose public support because the public does not like the type of action that we witnessed on Wednesday.
Whether it was right or wrong for the Secretary of State to come to the House to make a statement is not the concern of the majority. People are worried because Parliament was disrupted. People have an inherent dislike of such disruptive action. That is a fact of life, and the Opposition would do well to take note of it.
Much has been said about the rights of strikers. Something else goes with rights — responsibility. The two are synonymous. They always have been and always will be. We cannot get away from that. We all have rights, but we also have responsibilities. A miner has responsibilities to his family, and there is no doubt about that. He has to feed and clothe and also to provide accommodation for his family. Those are prime responsibilities. No miner worth his salt can absolve himself from those responsibilities. However, a miner has a right to strike. When a member of the National Union of Mineworkers exercises his right to go on strike, he must weigh his responsibilities and the consequences that will flow from his action of going on strike. No one should think that he can take that action and not have to accept the consequences and responsibilities that go with it. If a worker decides to go on strike—
§ Mr. Powley
No, I shall not give way. I tried to intervene during the speeches of a number of Labour Members and was denied the opportunity to do so. Time is limited and I shall not give way.
If a miner goes on strike, he must accept that he will receive a much lower income, if any income at all. He must know that his family will suffer and that it will not have the same standard of living that it enjoyed before he went on strike. If he chooses to go on strike, he cannot at the same time absolve himself from all his family responsibilities and expect someone else to pick up the tab.
§ Mr. Powley
No, I shall not give way.
Labour Members have talked about redundancies, but redundancy payments act as a cushion. That is a responsibility of the state, and one which it rightly accepts. 655 I am talking about someone who decides of his own free will to go on strike in furtherance of an industrial dispute, thereby denying himself the opportunities that would otherwise be his.
If a man decides to go on strike, that is his priority. In taking that decision, he decides that the income from his employment is not his priority. I do not accept that that is the right choice, but it is one that a striker makes. He is not coerced into making that decision. There has been intimidation, but generally no one will coerce a man into going on strike. That means that the decision is made of his own free will. He will have said to himself, "I prefer to go on strike than to maintain my family's standard of living. I prefer to go on strike than to feed and clothe my family and to continue to provide the members of my family with the benefits I have provided hitherto."
§ Mr. Powley
I shall not give way.
A miner who decides to go on strike must not expect the state to prop up his family and provide all the benefits that he has provided for it. The provision of those benefits is the responsibility of the individual who chooses to take strike action and not that of the state. Some of my constituents have told me, "I choose to work and to devote my resources to providing for my family. I work hard and accept overtime when it is available. Why should I prop up those who, through their own choice, have decided to embark on an industrial dispute and, in consequence, not to support their families?" Many of my constituents find that action abhorrent to their way of thinking.
§ Mr. Powley
No, I shall not give way. I explained that I would not give way, and I will not give way.
§ Mr. Powley
It ill becomes anyone to say that I dare not do something. Those who know me know that I will do what I choose to do, irrespective of a dare. I shall not fall into the silly trap that Labour Members try to set.
Labour Members love to suggest that Conservative Members have not had the experience that they claim to have. They suggest that all Conservative Members attended public schools and were born with silver spoons in their mouths. I am sure that you know it all, Mr. Speaker. I have a little story to tell Labour Members. Some of us may have had rather more experience—
§ Mr. Nellist
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely the terms of the motion do not lend themselves to the telling of stories. Will you tell this person, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley), to keep to the subject under discussion?
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope that the story of the hon. Member for Norwich. South (Mr. Powley) relates to the coal mining dispute.
§ Mr. Powley
It is related to the dispute, Mr. Speaker.
I was brought up in a working class family. My father was a shop steward for most of his life. It was his proud boast that he never needed to call his members out on strike in furtherance of an industrial dispute. That shows that the image that Labour Members present of Conservative Members is false.
656 I deplore the doublespeak that we have heard today and on so many other occasions. The cry goes up so often from Labour Members that they have sympathy for the striker, his family and his babies. However, they support industrial disputes that hit strikers' wives and their children and babies, the sick and the old. They do so time after time. Their actions and words amount to hypocrisy.
It is said that the Government have mounted a vicious attack on the miners. I was successful in the 1983 general election, and I admit that I was not successful in 1979. However, the Conservative party stated clearly during both elections—I supported it—that the unions should take an increasing share of responsibility for their actions. That was made abundantly clear during both elections. The Conservative party won the 1979 election and had a fairly comfortable majority in this place. It won the 1983 election and secured an overwhelming majority. It is clear that the Conservative party's policy is supported by the majority of the public. Indeed, some would say that the Government have not gone far enough. The general public support the policy that I outlined at the beginning of my speech. They believe that those who want to perpetrate certain actions should accept the consequences and responsibilities that go with them.
§ Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East)
When the suffering of mothers and children is the issue, this debate has shown already that the order which has been produced before the House is not only unnecessary but vindictive, provocative and discriminatory. The disgrace and shame is obvious from the despicable manner of the order's presentation, only four days before its implementation. Under pressure, the Secretary of State has explained that the order is not automatic and was avoidable. The right hon. Gentleman has explained that although he issued an order, he could have issued regulations. If he felt that he would never issue regulations, why is the provision for regulations contained in the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980? This Government have already done what no other Government have done in deducting money from the wives and children of miners. How much more hardship and suffering must they cause before they will even consider putting before the House regulations instead of an order?
Are the Government surprised at the frustration, anger and bitterness in mining communities, when they have published an order the effect of which is to deduct £1 from miners' families, and kept quiet, to the point of avoiding parliamentary answers, about the £750,000 they promised to pay Mr. Ian MacGregor's American firm as a bonus for his activities in Britain? When miners receive nothing from the Department of Health and Social Security, Ministers and other Conservative Members have argued that somehow the Government have the right to wash their hands of any responsibility for mothers and children and to pass the burden on to a trade union. The Government say that they should represent and cater for the needs of the nation, but that when it suits them, they should be able to take away the benefits that should be payable to some parts of the nation.
I remind Conservative Members that it was the Prime Minister who said that there was a safety net below which no one in this country should be allowed to fall. Indeed, the predecessor of the present Secretary of State for Social Services said: 657we will ensure that…the safety net below which none shall fall is maintained intact".—[Offical Report, 15 April 1980; Vol. 982, c. 1033.]The present Foreign Secretary, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:any civilised society should provide a safety net below which a poor person's standard of living should not fall."—[Official Report, 26 March 1980; Vol. 981, c. 1458.]The present Chancellor of the Exchequer is reported as having said:We want a decent safety net of social security payments for the needy. We shall not change that.What sort of safety net do we have when the Government have transferred the conduct of industrial relations from conciliation to the courts of law and the police cells and have transferred the responsibility for the relief of poverty from the social security office to the soup kitchen? What is the national minimum below which no one should fall? We know that the minimum daily allowance for one meal a day provided by the DHSS is £1.35. Yet a miner's wife is expected to live and meet all her household needs—food, heating and clothing—on only 92p a day, which is only two-thirds of that provision.
What is the poverty line above which all people are supposed to be? It is a measure of the Government's retribution against the strikers and their families that they do not just deduct £16 from the wives and children of miners, but give them £20 a week less than they pay to households of four where the father is in goal. The Government give miners' families £30 a week less than they give to a family where the father has walked out. The Government give a miner's family of four £40 a week less than if the breadwinner were unemployed instead of fighting for his job.
On top of that, during this strike, the Government have denied miners' families in my constituency and in other constituencies help with heating costs, the full rate of maternity allowance and even funeral costs, until the Minister was forced by public pressure to change his mind. Conservative Members should recall that even the Conservative Government of 1926 were so worried about the destitution that they had created in mining communities that they ordered the local authorities to break the law to alleviate at least some of the suffering that they had created. Now, in 1984, this Conservative Government are so concerned to create destitution and maximise suffering that, month by month—and almost week by week—new regulations, orders and instructions have been issued by the DHSS to make already impoverished families subject to even greater misery and destitution.
In March, when a child in a family of four from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) was run over and killed in a car accident, the Department of Health and Social Security denied help with the funeral costs and tried to force a pauper's funeral on that family. Only public pressure made the Minister change his mind and agree to do something he has not yet done—change the law.
In April, the Government tried, through the DHSS's adjudication officers, to prevent family income supplement being paid to the working wives of miners. Despite the fact that 16 tribunals have ruled against the Government, they are still opposing the case.
658 In May, the Government tried to rule against local authorities trying to relieve destitution in mining communities. Six months later, during which the Government have tried to prevent local authorities giving any help, they have had to admit that, in trying to delay the final appeal before the commissioner, they do not have sufficient legal evidence to back up their case.
In July, the Minister introduced new regulations to deduct from miners' social security benefits even the cost of soup or of logs paid for by charities and voluntary organisations.
Today, we have heard of the deduction of £1 from miners' families. What should have been a statement two months ago came as a written answer only last week.
At every point during this strike the Government have had a choice. When Ministers should have shown compassion to the wives and children of miners, they have chosen vindictive cuts. When they should have relieved suffering, they have increased it. When they should have prevented destitution, they have sought to worsen it. When they should have mitigated hardship, they have sought, for the narrowest of ideological reasons, to intensify it.
Mr. Patrick Thomson (Norwich, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
This dispute has now gone on for nearly eight months—eight months of lack of negotiation by the leader of the NUM. It is small wonder that after eight months of him and his gang not getting a successful outcome, the points made in this debate should be about the moral issue. This afternoon we have had paraded in front of us the moral issue of starving children, poor wives, lack of shoes, food and so on. Of course, after eight months of being on strike, miners are hardly likely to be at the height of affluence. This is a two-sided moral issue. The trade unions were set up to organise themselves to obtain better working conditions and wages and to take on recalcitrant employers who were determined to hold on to what they had. The trade unions rightly organised their finances so that they could support their members in all forms of industrial action. Eventually, over the decades, the country had had enough suffering.
In the 1970s there was the winter of discontent and all the industrial relations problems that were heaped upon us during the period of the previous Labour Government. The Comservative party platform was, "Yes, we want accountability for what people do and that accountability embraces the responsibility of trade unions when they take industrial action." We said that the trade unions should pay for or make a contribution to the issues on which they embarked. The Opposition have talked about the problems confronting 120,000 mineworkers, but what about our responsibilities towards the remaining 55 million people who have to pick up the bill for the NUM's bad judgment?
We have heard a lot about solidarity. What is meant by solidarity? What other support does the NUM have? Is it the solidarity of lorry drivers trundling coal to the power 659 stations? Is it the solidarity of the railwaymen who are continuing to deliver coal? Is it the solidarity of the power workers, when there has been not one power dispute since this action started and not one likely to happen? Is it like solidarity of the NUM, a growing number of whose members are going back to work day by day, and rightly so?
§ Mr. King
They may well have been starved back, but no one else has got them anything. Mr. Scargill has given them nothing but rhetoric, blunder and promises of money from Russia and Colonel Gaddafi, while he is bundling it out of the country to Ireland and America. The only money that Mr. Scargill promises is for those on the picket line. People can stand there and draw their picket money. What does Arthur Scargill say to those who are suffering genuine hardship? We have heard of a few of those. Nothing. He blames everything on the NCB and the Government.
Where has the money gone that has been collected in the streets? Who has audited it? Who has been accountable for it? We can hardly travel down a street without someone offering a bucket for us to drop our loose change into. What happens to that money? [AN HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman has not dropped his loose change in."] No. I shall not give money to that cause when other causes, such as Ethiopia and children in need, are being collected for in the same street. The money is being used to foment this industrial dispute. We have seen on television what that has led to.
The NUM executive has carried on this industrial dispute, and it does not give a damn for its union members. If it did, it would have held a ballot. The result of that ballot may well have been a complete stoppage and the dispute would have been over within a matter of weeks. The executive tried to get its own way without carrying out its democratic duties, according to its rule book, and that has led to the hardship that we now see.
As Christmas draws near there will be the problems of children not having food, presents, and so on. Our hearts will be twanged away at like mad by Opposition Members reminding us that for many people Christmas will not come this year. The answer to that is simple. The miners have only to accept the NCB's offer and take the money that is on the table. Any miner who returns to work now will receive £600 in his pocket before Christmas. That will provide shoes, clothes and Christmas presents that the children want and deserve.
Our appeal to the miners must be for them to return to work, to get the pits working again, and take up the excellent offer negotiated by ACAS. Some of us believe that that offer is rather too much—we are not pleased about that—and that the NCB would be giving too much away. If NACODS can accept the offer, why the NUM cannot remains a mystery.
What about the small business man? If the full entitlement had been paid without discounting £15 or £16, how much would it have cost the country? How many small businesses, which have a job to balance their books, would have gone to the wall as a result of no coal and no electricity and all the problems that would have ensued? Hundreds of thousands of other people would have been badly hurt. The miners should accept the offer that is on the table and return to work. They would then draw their 660 money and that would solve many of their and their families' problems. Miners should remember that their responsibility is not to the union or to their colleagues, but, first and foremost, to their families.
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
I must respond to one point made from the Conservative Benches in reply to my intervention earlier. It was on the subject of violence. The hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) suggested that the one person about whom I spoke could obtain some satisfaction by reporting the act of violence committed against him and his wife to the police.
I do not apologise for repeating this point. During the dispute we have not heard sufficient about the violence perpetuated against bystanders who are taking non-violent action on picket lines. We have tonight heard a great deal from the Conservative Benches about violence. My constituent, a Labour councillor, was a bystander on a picket line last Tuesday. He was standing on a wall watching what happened. He saw a group of police beat up a constituency lodge chairman. He called to the police to stop. He was pulled off the wall and dragged to the floor. His face was grazed and his knees were bruised. When his wife went over to intervene, she was hit in the stomach. When he told the senior policeman on duty that he was going to report the incident to the police, he was told that he was under arrest. That is what happens when someone wishes to report an incident to the police.
My constituent said that in that case he would drop his complaint, but he went to the police station and reported the incident. He returned to the picket line the next day and saw the same police officers on the same picket line. When he went to the senior police officer on duty he was told that they had not been removed from the picket line because they had been told what to do by the police commander.
Such incidents have rarely been talked about, but, make no mistake, they take place. They are violent actions against people who are not taking part in the picket, but we hear nothing about them in the press or from the Government.
The increases made in the order are, apparently, because of the increase in inflation. Families—it is worth repeating this—will be worse off in real terms as a result of the £1 deduction. Let me give two examples. In 1979, a couple who were both on strike could claim from the DHSS an urgent needs payment of £24. In 1984, a couple, with one person on strike and with two children under 10, receive £24.75. That is a rise of 75p in five years. What sort of justice and welfare is that?
During the strike, thousands of people have become involved in creating alternative welfare systems. A large part has been played by women. Women have always played an important, but under-estimated, role in mining life, but never more so than during this strike. Women are hurt much more than men in a dispute. It is the women who have to take charge of the household and take care of the children to ensure that they are fed.
The women in my constituency decided that if everyone could have one hot meal a day they could survive and would not be starved back to work. In our community we have 13 strike feeding committees. The women from the kitchens meet regularly to discuss their experiences and keep themselves together. Letters of support are read out. Some women read their poems. They keep a note of the best and the worst that happens. The women say that they 661 sometimes have a bit of a cry. The pressure on them is terrific and it is hard work, but they also have some laughs. It cannot be denied that the strike has involved enormous hardship.
Living without a wage from the pits, men have received no social security payments, and their families were assumed to be in receipt of—now £16— strike pay. Miners and their families have been forced to live off friends, sacks of potatoes and the odd £10 from relatives. They are having to cash their insurance policies, raise second mortgages, sell their cars and their furniture, and live off tick. But the determination to see it through is there, despite all the hardship. Despite all the hardship, all the worry and all the doing without, people are not broken in body or in spirit. If anything, the opposite is true.
§ The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)
Rarely can there have been a debate which was so much heralded and which has misfired as badly as the debate in the past three hours. If ever there has been a thin case, deployed in antique rhetoric, we have heard it during the past three hours. Much of the huffing and puffing has been a farce from the beginning.
If the statement that was made last week had been made at the time of the uprating in June, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) would have said that we were trying to smuggle it out, hidden by the pension increases and the child benefit increases. If it had been done when the uprating orders were made in July, he would have said that we were rushing it through before the summer recess. If we had done it in August, he would have said that it was a disgrace that it was not done in July. If we had done it in September, he would have said that it was terrible that we had not waited until Parliament came back from the summer recess. If we had done it a month ago, he would have said that we were trying to back up the National Coal Board in the offers and negotiations with which it was then involved. We do not know what the hon. Gentleman would have said last week. When he tried to say it, his own hon. Friends would not let him talk.
In the end, we did more than we have done in any of the past four years. We laid the order and we made a press statement—
§ Mr. Nellist
Perhaps the Minister can tell the House the last occasion when he and his wife managed on £6.45 for a week. When was the last time that he went without a meal? Will he tell the House how he expects families to survive for nine months on the pittance that the Government give them? Now another pound has been taken from them. [Interruption.] There is hilarity on the Conservative Benches. Those hon. Members would probably spend £6.45 or more on a round in the Bars downstairs. They do not give a damn about people. The Minister stands there making a mockery of people who are fighting for their jobs.
§ Mr. Newton
If I may say so, one does not have to work very hard to make a mockery of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Newton
If the hon. Gentleman will stop behaving like the parliamentary equivalent of a half brick, I shall get on with my speech.
In the past three hours we have heard a great deal about how vindictive and provocative the Government have been. The same things would have been said whenever the announcement was made, despite the fact that it was automatic. We have heard those remarks against the background of 1.25 million payments of supplementary benefit over the period concerned, totalling £23 million. That is without even taking account of payments of housing benefit. On this very day, 30,000 dependants of miners on strike are receiving an increase in the benefit that is paid to them. Is that vindictive and provocative? There are strikers in many other parts of the world who would think that our strikers are doing very well.
Where a man, for whatever reason, chooses to deprive himself of the means to support his dependants, whether of his own volition of because his union asks him or tells him to, it is not vindictive or provocative to expect either that man or his union to make some provision for his needs, and not to expect the rest of the community to pick up the whole of the bill. That is a simple, common-sense proposition.
When I am told that it is provocative that the Government allowed the law to take its course today, I ask myself: how provocative would it have been to the miners who have worked throughout, and those who have gone back, if we had taken special action to change the law to protect those who are still on strike? This is not deemed strike pay, as has been said several times throughout the debate.
My heart less than bleeds when I am told that the National Union of Mineworkers might have gone bankrupt if it had attempted to pay strike pay. Any other organisation which embarks on a course of action which might bankrupt it has to think about that before it starts. The hon. Member for Oldham, West used a delicate phrase to explain why no strike pay has been paid. He talked about the NUM's money being "otherwise immobilised". It was not immobilised; it moved out of the country so fast that nobody could see it go.
There have been some serious and reasonable contributions to the debate. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), and for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), and to a number of others. I want it to be clear that there has been no attempt whatever—nor will there be—by Ministers to lean on individual adjudicating officers to bend their decisions either way within the existing rules. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bassetlaw cannot have it both ways. He complains that different adjudicating officers in different places take different decisions.
§ Mr. Newton
How is it that Ministers, who are able to instruct the adjudicating officers, cannot even bring about consistency? The answer is that we do not tell adjudicating officers what views to form. It is their business to interpret the regulations.
The treatment of girl friends is precisely the same as it would be in any other circumstances with claims for supplementary benefit. The rules on trade disputes make provision for meeting maternity need, if necessary, when 663 the baby arrives. I tell the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) that the rules on gifts and goods in kind have not been changed and are those which apply normally throughout the supplementary benefit system.
I was asked about family income supplement. There was mention of 16 appeals having gone one way. Seventeen appeals have gone the other way. In other words, there is no clear view with regard to FIS. I hope that the position will be resolved shortly by a tribunal of commissioners.
I cannot, in the time available to me, cover all the detailed points which have been made in the debate. For once I found myself having some sympathy with the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—and not just because of the slight sense that he had left the real world. [Interruption.] It was primarily because I think he may be right to complain that the House has not debated the miners' dispute sufficiently, but he would not be right if he tried to blame the Government for that. The reason why the miners' dispute as such has not been debated often is the same reason as that behind today's debate. The Opposition Front Bench do not want to debate the real issues of the day. [Interruption.] They do not dare debate the real issues of the miners' dispute. They will not condemn the violence. They will not condemn the nonsense of the NUM's position. They are all too happy to have those serious issues hidden by the silly smokescreen which has been created by this issue in the past week.
I hope that the House, in proper parliamentary fashion, will do what the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) did in another and more physical way last week, and tear up the motion with its vote.
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 185, Noes 279.666
|Division No. 17]||[7 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)|
|Alton, David||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)|
|Anderson, Donald||Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Bruce, Malcolm|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Buchan, Norman|
|Ashton, Joe||Caborn, Richard|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Callaghan, Rt Hon J.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Campbell, Ian|
|Barnett, Guy||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Barron, Kevin||Canavan, Dennis|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Carter Jones, Lewis|
|Benn, Tony||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Clay, Robert|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)|
|Blair, Anthony||Cohen, Harry|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Boyes, Roland||Conlan, Bernard|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||McKelvey, William|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cowans, Harry||McWilliam, John|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Madden, Max|
|Craigen, J. M.||Marek, Dr John|
|Crowther, Stan||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Meacher, Michael|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Michie, William|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Deakins, Eric||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Dewar, Donald||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dixon, Donald||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Dobson, Frank||Nellist, David|
|Dormand, Jack||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Douglas, Dick||O'Brien, William|
|Dubs, Alfred||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Park, George|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Parry, Robert|
|Eadie, Alex||Patchett, Terry|
|Eastham, Ken||Pendry, Tom|
|Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)||Penhaligon, David|
|Ellis, Raymond||Pike, Peter|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Ewing, Harry||Prescott, John|
|Fatchett, Derek||Radice, Giles|
|Faulds, Andrew||Redmond, M.|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Fields, T. (L 'pool Broad Gn)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Fisher, Mark||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Flannery, Martin||Robertson, George|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Rooker, J. W.|
|Forrester, John||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Ryman, John|
|Freud, Clement||Sedgemore, Brian|
|George, Bruce||Sheerman, Barry|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Golding, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Gould, Bryan||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Snape, Peter|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Soley, Clive|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Home Robertson, John||Stott, Roger|
|Howells, Geraint||Strang, Gavin|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Straw, Jack|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Thompson, J. (WansbecK)|
|John, Brynmor||Thome, Stan (Preston)|
|Johnston, Russell||Tinn, James|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Torney, Tom|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Wainwright, R.|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Wallace, James|
|Lambie, David||Wareing, Robert|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Weetch, Ken|
|Leighton, Ronald||Welsh, Michael|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||White, James|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Litherland, Robert||Wilson, Gordon|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Winnick, David|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Woodall, Alec|
|McCartney, Hugh||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Mr. John Maxton and|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Mr. Robin Corbett.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)|
|Ancram, Michael||Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)|
|Ashby, David||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Hickmet, Richard|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Body, Richard||Hind, Kenneth|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Holt, Richard|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Hooson, Tom|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Hordern, Peter|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Bright, Graham||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Burt, Alistair||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Butterfill, John||Hunter, Andrew|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Irving, Charles|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Cartwright, John||Jessel, Toby|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jones, Robert (W Herts)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Kennedy, Charles|
|Cockeram, Eric||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Colvin, Michael||Key, Robert|
|Coombs, Simon||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Cope, John||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Corrie, John||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Couchman, James||Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Knox, David|
|Critchley, Julian||Lamont, Norman|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lang, Ian|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Latham, Michael|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Dunn, Robert||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Durant, Tony||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Lester, Jim|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lightbown, David|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lilley, Peter|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lord, Michael|
|Fox, Marcus||Luce, Richard|
|Franks, Cecil||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Freeman, Roger||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Gale, Roger||MacGregor, John|
|Galley, Roy||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Maclean, David John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Madel, David|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Major, John|
|Gow, Ian||Malins, Humfrey|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Malone, Gerald|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Maples, John|
|Greenway, Harry||Marland, Paul|
|Gregory, Conal||Marlow, Antony|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Mates, Michael|
|Grist, Ian||Mather, Carol|
|Ground, Patrick||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mellor, David|
|Hannam, John||Merchant, Piers|
|Harris, David||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Harvey, Robert||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)||Moate, Roger|
|Hawksley, Warren||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Hayes, J.||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Moore, John|
|Heddle, John||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Henderson, Barry||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Squire, Robin|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mudd, David||Stanley, John|
|Murphy, Christopher||Steen, Anthony|
|Neale, Gerrard||Stern, Michael|
|Needham, Richard||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Neubert, Michael||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Newton, Tony||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Stokes, John|
|Onslow, Cranley||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Sumberg, David|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Taylor, Rt Hon John David|
|Osborn, Sir John||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Ottaway, Richard||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Parris, Matthew||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Pawsey, James||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Thurnham, Peter|
|Pollock, Alexander||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)||Tracey, Richard|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Trippier, David|
|Powley, John||Trotter, Neville|
|Price, Sir David||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Rathbone, Tim||Waddington, David|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Renton, Tim||Walden, George|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Waller, Gary|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Warren, Kenneth|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Watson, John|
|Rost, Peter||Watts, John|
|Ryder, Richard||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Whitfield, John|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Whitney, Raymond|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shersby, Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Silvester, Fred||Woodcock, Michael|
|Sims, Roger||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Yeo, Tim|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Spence, John||Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and|
|Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Mr. Peter Lloyd.|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments):—
§ The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 187.670
|Division No. 18]||[7.14 pm|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Body, Richard|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Ancram, Michael||Bottomley, Peter|
|Ashby, David||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Bright, Graham|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Budgen, Nick|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Butterfill, John|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Carlisle, John (N Luton)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Chapman, Sydney||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Key, Robert|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Colvin, Michael||Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Coombs, Simon||Knox, David|
|Cope, John||Lamont, Norman|
|Cormack, Patrick||Lang, Ian|
|Corrie, John||Latham, Michael|
|Couchman, James||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lester, Jim|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Lightbown, David|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lillley, Peter|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lord, Michael|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Luce, Richard|
|Fox, Marcus||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Franks, Cecil||McCrindle, Robert|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||MacGregor, John|
|Freeman, Roger||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Gale, Roger||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Galley, Roy||Maclean, David John|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Madel, David|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Malins, Humfrey|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Malone, Gerald|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maples, John|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Marland, Paul|
|Gow, Ian||Marlow, Antony|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Mates, Michael|
|Greenway, Harry||Mather, Carol|
|Gregory, Conal||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Grist, Ian||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Ground, Patrick||Mellor, David|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Merchant, Piers|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Hannam, John||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Harris, David||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Harvey, Robert||Moate, Roger|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Moore, John|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hayes, J.||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Hayward, Robert||Mudd, David|
|Heddle, John||Murphy, Christopher|
|Henderson, Barry||Neale, Gerrard|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Needham, Richard|
|Hickmet, Richard||Nelson, Anthony|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Neubert, Michael|
|Hind, Kenneth||Newton, Tony|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Holt, Richard||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hooson, Tom||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Hordern, Peter||Osborn, Sir John|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Parris, Matthew|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hunter, Andrew||Pawsey, James|
|Irving, Charles||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Jessel, Toby||Pollock, Alexander|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Taylor, Rt Hon John David|
|Powley, John||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Price, Sir David||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Rathbone, Tim||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Renton, Tim||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Thurnham, Peter|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Rost, Peter||Tracey, Richard|
|Ryder, Richard||Trippier, David|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Trotter, Neville|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Waddington, David|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Walden, George|
|Shersby, Michael||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Silvester, Fred||Waller, Gary|
|Sims, Roger||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Warren, Kenneth|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Watson, John|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Watts, John|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Spence, John||Wells, Sir John (Maidstona)|
|Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Whitfield, John|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Squire, Robin||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanley, John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Steen, Anthony||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stern, Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Yeo, Tim|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Stokes, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Mr. John Major and|
|Sumberg, David||Mr. Tony Durant.|
|Abse, Leo||Cartwright, John|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Alton, David||Clay, Robert|
|Anderson, Donald||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Cohen, Harry|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Ashton, Joe||Conlan, Bernard|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Cowans, Harry|
|Barnett, Guy||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)|
|Barron, Kevin||Craigen, J. M.|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Crowther, Stan|
|Benn, Tony||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Blair, Anthony||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Deakins, Eric|
|Boyes, Roland||Dewar, Donald|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dixon, Donald|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Dobson, Frank|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dormand, Jack|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Douglas, Dick|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Dubs, Alfred|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Buchan, Norman||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Caborn, Richard||Eadie, Alex|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Eastham, Ken|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)|
|Campbell, Ian||Ellis, Raymond|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Ewing, Harry|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fatchett, Derek|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Loyden, Edward|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Fisher, Mark||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Flannery, Martin||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||McKelvey, William|
|Forrester, John||McNamara, Kevin|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||McWilliam, John|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Madden, Max|
|Freud, Clement||Marek, Dr John|
|George, Bruce||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Golding, John||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Gould, Bryan||Meacher, Michael|
|Gourlay, Harry||Michie, William|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Nellist, David|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||O'Brien, William|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Home Robertson, John||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Howells, Geraint||Park, George|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Parry, Robert|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Patchett, Terry|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Pendry, Tom|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Penhaligon, David|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)||Pike, Peter|
|John, Brynmor||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Johnston, Russell||Radice, Giles|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Redmond, M.|
|Kennedy, Charles||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Lambie, David||Robertson, George|
|Leighton, Ronald||Rooker, J. W.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Litherland, Robert||Ryman, John|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Sheerman, Barry||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Tinn, James|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Torney, Tom|
|Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)||Wainwright, R.|
|Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)||Wallace, James|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.||Wareing, Robert|
|Skinner, Dennis||Weetch, Ken|
|Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)||Welsh, Michael|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)||White, James|
|Snape, Peter||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Soley, Clive||Wilson, Gordon|
|Spearing, Nigel||Winnick, David|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Woodall, Alec|
|Stott, Roger||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Straw, Jack||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Mr. John Maxton and|
|Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)||Mr. Robin Corbett.|
|Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House re-affirms the policy established by the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980 that those on strike should be expected to contribute to the cost of maintaining their families; notes that, consequent on the general uprating on social security benefits, all but a tiny minority of strikers receiving supplementary benefit are being paid the same or more benefit, not less; acknowledges that the Government have as in previous years followed the requirements of the Act in uprating the "specified sum" to be deducted from benefit payable for strikers' dependants; acknowledges that the National Coal Board has negotiated constructively in reaching a settlement with the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers on the central issues of the dispute; and condemns the failure of the National Union of Mineworkers either to meet its obligations to its members and their families or to move from its total unreasonable position in negotiations.