Essential Supplies and Services

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1979.

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Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 17th January 1979

In view of the earlier exchanges, does the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) wish to continue with his application under Standing Order No. 9?

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing, in view of the cumulative effects of the food blockade on housewives and our constituents, a specific and important matter which should have urgent consideration, namely, the approaching situation of acute food shortages in the country". The matter is specific and urgent, given the statement made by the president of the Food Manufacturers Federation on "The World at One" today I have since spoken to him on the telephone, when he confirmed that only 10 per cent. of processed foods was reaching the nation's shops. The term "processed foods" includes anything in a can, a packet or a bag. By the end of next week, at the very latest, there will be acute shortages and acute hardships. That is his considered view as president of the federation.

The urgency of the matter is supported by a statement made by the managing director of Tesco to the Evening News this afternoon. I have also spoken to Tesco on the telephone. The firm says that pickets have cut off more than 60 per cent. of all food reaching its 600 shops throughout the country, which serve about 10 million people every day. The managing director rang the Government emergency committee, which asked whether he could ring back and then said "No, do not ring back because we too, are helpless."

I understand that other food chains are in the same position. Therefore, I submit that this is a matter of urgency. We have a few days left. The sooner the matter is debated, the better. It is clearly one of great importance to our constituents.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) gave me notice earlier, at the earliest opportunity that he had, that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the approaching situation of acute food shortages in the country. I listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman said, and I also listened to the earlier exchanges in the House. The House knows that it has instructed me not to give the reasons for my decision. I listened carefully, but I must rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. How can we proceed further in this matter? As a Back Bencher, I cannot question your ruling about this afternoon's applications under Standing Order No. 9, nor is it my wish to do so, but, having listened to your answers to my hon. Friends the Members for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) and Streatham (Mr. Shel- ton) about the plight of their constituents, in a situation that many of us find reflected in our own constituencies, I wonder how we can proceed under our Standing Orders further to pursue in the House the interests of our constituencies at this time of crisis.

Yesterday we had a debate that gave about six hours' examination to the matter. It brought forth statements from Members on both Front Benches about where the two main parties stood, and we heard where all the parties in the House stood on the matter. But Back Benchers are still worried and concerned because of the pressure under which they find themselves today with our democratic representation.

All that we can do, Mr. Speaker, is to ask you what we can do to see that we continue to debate and to represent our constituents in this House at this time of crisis. I am very worried and concerned that we must pass on to other business today.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Gentleman will have heard my remarks in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), which were unusual in the context of the normal reply that I gave to an application under Standing Order No. 9. I indicated that I was deeply aware, as we all are, of the serious difficulties confronting the country, and I used the words "not today". I have been as helpful as I can be to the House in that indication.