Fuel Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th January 1974.

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Photo of Mr William Clark Mr William Clark , East Surrey 12:00 am, 9th January 1974

The point of my speech is that this country faces a national crisis and this is no time for political debating points.

The Leader of the Opposition should come out fair and square and make up his mind. He should say something positive and not dither between the Left and Right wings of the Labour Party. Having been Prime Minister, he should know that it is essential in these days to have an incomes policy. We can argue what form it should take, but he knows that if phase 3, which I think is generous, is breached we shall have leapfrogging, unemployment, and the rundown of industry even worse than in the past.

I turn now to the miners' dispute. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments, except to add my thanks to the Prime Minister for appointing my right hon. and noble Friend as Secretary of State for Energy. This Department is long overdue. The Department of Trade and Industry was so vast that it could not control a matter so vital to this country.

I hope that the miners will see sense and reason and appreciate the hardship that they are causing, not to the Government but to the ordinary working man and woman. They have an offer of 16½ per cent. and the promise of a long-term inquiry. I hope that as a matter of urgency my right hon. and noble Friend will set up a Royal Commission, or whatever it may be, to look into the mining industry. I hope, too, that we shall be able to develop the new seams in Yorkshire and get more recruitment to the industry.

What I do not understand—the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) brought out this point in his most constructive speech—is the miners' overtime ban. The agreement with the miners does not expire until 28th February. That point should be borne in mind. We have heard the rules read out, despite the fact that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will never agree to anything.

We hear a lot about the miners. I know quite a few miners because I once represented a Nottingham constituency and one of the best coal seams in the country is situated near Nottingham. However, we never hear from an ordinary miner. What we hear comes from the miners' leaders. The ordinary miner does not seem to have a chance of putting forward his views. Even when a miners' leader, Mr. Frank Smith, is prepared to stand up and be counted, what happens? He is pilloried. Do we want this kind of society? It smacks of too much Communism.

There are many people within the trade union movement who are not really interested in a 16 per cent. or a 20 per cent. settlement. They are interested only in overthrowing the society in which we live. The Government should take note of that. I know that the militants and Left-wingers do not like that being said. That is how Left-wing militancy comes through. Such people use the channels of democracy to destroy democracy. That is a matter to which the Government must pay attention. We must stop pussyfooting with the Communist element.