§ 4.1 pm
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the nationwide strike by British seafarers.The strike has been directly caused by the action of the P and O company. That company, which pays substantial sums to the Tory party, is seeking higher profits by trying to impose slave labour conditions on its employees, which could, as a result of the exhaustion of its employees, also risk the lives and safety of those who travel on Channel ferries, as occurred at Zeebrugge. The company has dismissed those who refused to accept those conditions, has broken long-standing agreements with the union, and has withdrawn recognition from that union. The employers are now applying to the courts for sequestration of NUS funds. The situation could hardly be more serious for seafarers, upon whom this country, as a maritime nation, has always relied in protecting its lifelines in times of war.
The Government are responsible for the legislation designed to destroy trade unionism upon which millions of working people depend to safeguard their wages, working conditions and safety. The Labour party supports the seamen's action and the House must be allowed to debate the matter urgently. It is not sufficient to leave the matter to the courts or to the mass media, which have never shown any real understanding of these matters.
If the House of Commons disregards calls for help from those who need our protection from injustice, protestations about parliamentary democracy will sound increasingly shallow and unconvincing. I beg you, Mr. Speaker, to allow the seafarers' case to be heard here tomorrow.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the nationwide strike by British seafarers.I listened with care and attention to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given priority over the business set down for today or tomorrow. I cannot find that the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20, and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.