Orders of the Day — State of Emergency

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th November 1973.

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Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield 12:00 am, 15th November 1973

I do not want to keep quoting the exchanges, but what the right hon. Gentleman said was: What I said was that to break the law passed by this Parliament about pay and to do it with the deliberate intention of breaking the properly elected Government of the country is even more undemocratic than anything we have had to deal with so far."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November 1973; Vol. 864, c. 260–4.] All we are saying is that the Government are not the law. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central said that in the debate. The highest legal advice has been taken and that is not the situation at all. Opposing the Government is not breaking the law, and there is not one hon. Gentleman in this House who can tell me that the power workers or the miners are breaking the law in the industrial action that they are taking. Of course they are not breaking the law.

On the question of general energy supplies, there was a case for taking precautionary action to deal with the oil crisis. Some suspicious people believe that the Government, having previously defaulted in taking any action, probably think that they can now slip through the rationing of petrol under these emergency measures. But let me warn the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry—if he is the chap who is going to do it—that nobody will be taken in by that one. The Government say that the emergency has been declared because of the situation in the coal and electricity industries. Although I use the roads quite a lot, I have yet to see any coal-fired Cortinas or electrically-powered Jaguars on the motorways. But the Secretary of State may well say that it is the coal industry which has caused petrol rationing.