§ Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the Prime Minister's involvement in the mining dispute.The Prime Minister has constantly misled the House during the past 10 months about the mining dispute. That is a serious matter and should be given priority over the normal business of the House. On many occasions during Prime Minister's Question Time, the Prime Minister stated that she and her Government would not involve themselves in the mining dispute, that the dispute was a matter only between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mine workers, and that the Government had no intention of becoming involved. Events during the past few days have made it clear that the Prime Minister and her Government are involved in the dispute. She has misled the House with her answers and brought disgrace and dishonour on her high office. Only by granting a debate can these charges be more fully explained and the Prime Minister be brought to task for misleading the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the Prime Minister's involvement in the mining dispute.I hope that the hon. Member and the House will appreciate what I said a few minutes ago about the number of Standing Order No. 10 applications that are being made. I am bound to have to take into account the other opportunities in the House for discussing these important matters and also the negotiations which, I hope, are to get under way this weekend. I listened carefully to what the hon. Member said, but regret that I do not consider the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10 today or on Monday and, therefore, cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the employment of private security companies by the National Coal Board during the miners' strike.I do so because it has come to my attention that a private company called Burns International Security Services (U.K.) Ltd. advertised in the Liverpool Echo for people to be interviewed for jobs in security. I believe that the company came to Liverpool because of the massive unemployment there. I understand that the recruits were to be paid between £420 and £480 for 10 days' work over the Christmas and New Year period for protecting National Coal Board property. They were expected to cross picket lines, but no previous security experience was required, nor was any training to be given.
I know from information given to me that one recruit had just been released from prison after having served a 1162 two-year sentence. I fully support the rehabilitation of prisoners and recognise the need to find them employment. However, I wonder whether such companies do not generally check an applicant's previous history. The recruit could have been in prison on a non-serious charge, but, equally, his offence could have been causing grievous bodily harm or some other form of violence. In view of allegations and counter-allegations of violence on picket lines, of the death of several miners, and of evidence of police brutality, it is disturbing and sinister to think that there is a small private army employed by the NCB for that sensitive work.
I wrote to Mr. MacGregor and the Secretary of State for Energy on 17 January, but to date I have received no reply. I received a written reply from the Under-Secretary of State for Energy on 21 January, which stated that the Government did not have a list of private security companies employed by the NCB. It is therefore urgent that we get that information, and have a full debate on the Floor of the House about whether the Government and the NCB support the employment of those organisations during the strike. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will accede to my application.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member raises a different aspect of the coal industry dispute, namely,the employment of private security companies by the National Coal Board during the miners' strike.The hon. Member knows that the decision that I must take on these matters is whether applications should take precedence over the business set down for today or Monday. I listened with care to what he said, and I am sure that he will have further opportunities to raise the matter. I regret, therefore, that I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Alex Woodall (Hemsworth)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the deteriorating situation following the aborted talks this week between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mine workers.Last Saturday, Sunday and Monday everyone in the country thought that talks were about to restart between the NCB and the NUM after they were aborted last October. That was widely forecast by the media, especially following a meeting held on Monday between Mr. Peter Heathfield of the NUM and Ned Smith of the NCB. We were led to believe that the meeting was to clear the way for a full meeting between the NCB and the full executive committee of the NUM without any specified agenda or preconditions. Suddenly on Tuesday, the talks were off. Almost simultaneously, the Secretary of State for Energy and the spokesman for the NCB announced that there had been no interference by the Government or by the Secretary of State for Energy. That happened before any accusations were made that there was interference.
We have had no opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Energy on the way in which the talks were aborted, which looks suspicious. As everyone had high hopes that talks could take place this week and the strike might be settled, it is imperative that this debate should take place. Questions on Thursdays to the Leader of the House, and a few questions on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1163 to the Prime Minister are no substitute for a full debate. For those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will look favourably upon my application.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the deteriorating situation following the aborted talks this week between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.Again, I in no way underestimate the importance of the hon. Gentleman's application. I hope that he and the House accept that this is a crucial moment in respect of negotiations that we hope will be renewed. I regret that I cannot submit his application to the House this day.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the coal industry dispute and the problems of power supplies and safety checks at nuclear power stations.The House must be aware of the massive increases in fuel costs since the miners' strike began, which are estimated to be £60 million a week. In a desperate attempt to maintain electricity supplies, it is clear that the Central Electricity Generating Board has been running all its non coal-fired power stations to maximum performance, which has led to many unreported and unpublicised breakdowns of equipment. Indeed, there are reports of a near-explosion at Rugeley A power station on Christmas day, and the destruction and burning out of a turbine at Neasden power station at approximately the same time.
We also learn that the CEGB has been running its nuclear power stations flat out during the miners' dispute, and right up to the maximum period of two years before compulsory inspection. It is important that the House discusses this matter, because if those power stations are being run to the limits of their inspection time, will they all be shut down together to allow inspection to take place, or will the Secretary of State for Energy attempt to alter regulations so that they can be run for even longer than two years?
You may have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that yesterday the CEGB sought legal advice because of a statement made by Friends of the Earth at the Sizewell inquiry that the inspection of nuclear power stations has been taking place under an Act of lesser force than the one which the CEGB should be using. It is using the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, while Friends of the Earth suggests that it should use the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 to inspect nuclear power stations.
I trust that you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that this is an urgent and important matter. The implications of many power station breakdowns as a result of overloading for the safety of oil-fired and nuclear power stations are extremely important. Those matters must be debated in the House, not through the columns of newspapers or on television and radio. If the House is to mean anything as a democratic establishment, we must have a debate on all the implications, in terms of public spending and safety, of the miners' dispute.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter, namely,the coal industry dispute and the problems of power supplies and safety checks at nuclear power stations,which the hon. Gentleman believes should have precedence over the business for today or Monday. I accept, as I said earlier this week, that these are vital matters which in due course should be debated in the House. However, I must have regard to other opportunities which are available. The hon. Gentleman may discover that during energy questions on Monday he will have an opportunity to put those matters. Therefore, I must say with regret that I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a small point, but it might be worth drawing your attention to the fact that when you refused the application of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) you referred to negotiations proceeding. I am sure that you were giving a sign that you would like negotiations to proceed. However, we should remember when further applications are made, probably on Monday, that because of the Prime Minister's interference on a massive scale those negotiations might not proceed. I hope that you will bear that in mind when applications are next made.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a hypothetical point, but I judge that all hon. Members would accept that the House is anxious to see a resolution of this damaging dispute. We would be wise to leave matters until the weekend to see what happens.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You said earlier that you did not much like pressure being brought to bear on the Chair. None of us likes the pressure that is being brought to bear in our areas. You spoke about negotiations and other opportunities for debate. As you heard, the Leader of the House, in describing the business for next week, said that there would be no opportunity for debate. There is no Supply day next week. The first Supply day comes in the following week.
In effect, Mr. Speaker, you are saying that there is no provision for the House to debate the matter, but that hon. Members can ask questions for an hour next week. We are concerned to have a debate and to have the opportunity to put a contrary view, instead of simply putting questions and receiving stonewalling replies. With great respect— no one regrets it more than do my hon. Friends and myself —the only way in which we can use the opportunities open to us, in the absence of a debate in Government time next week, is by continuing to use the perfectly proper procedure of making applications under Standing Order No. 10. We have so far made 22 such applications, but you have been unable to respond favourably. I hope that in the light of Monday's Question Time it will be possible for you to consider favourably an application under Standing Order No. 10 arising out of questions. It will not be possible to give notice before 12 o'clock of matters that may emerge during Question Time, and I hope that you will take that into account if further applications are submitted to you.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when I commented previously on a matter that arose from his question. I have received many applications under Standing Order No. 10 but I repeat to him and the House that I must have regard for other opportunities. It is not the role of the Chair to manage the business of the House. That is done through the usual channels. There is an Opposition day most weeks, and it is for the Opposition to decide what is discussed on those days.
I do not object to being under pressure. I say simply for the benefit of those outside, that I would not wish it to be thought that I am in any way involved in the issues. They are not a matter for me. I am bound by the Standing Order.
§ Mr. Woodall
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not regrettable that the Government can find time to debate the Education (Corporal Punishment) Bill next week when for the past 11 months they have been caning miners and their families, right, left and centre?