Coal Industry Dispute

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1984.

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Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East 12:00 am, 6th June 1984

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although you were not in the Chair at the time, you will be aware that, during the Adjournment debate on the coal strike yesterday evening, I made an accusation to the Minister of State, Department of Energy regarding Government pressure and instructions to British Rail to settle the pay dispute with the rail unions so that those unions would not be involved with the miners. That was greeted with extreme derision and laughter by the Minister and his colleagues. Today's events may have changed that, but I leave that matter there.

I wish to raise with you, Sir, the fact that a similar position now arises in relation to British Steel and instructions from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. On 23 May, when the non-union coke lorries moved from Orgreave to Scunthorpe it was with the understanding and explicit knowledge of British Steel and right to the top of the Government that on 24 May there would be a meeting of the mining, transport and rail unions to give a dispensation for that coke to be moved by rail. The instruction by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in that context is exactly the same as the Prime Minister's instruction to the chairman of British Rail.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is well known that even a fairly thin House on Derby day—we all know where the Conservatives are—has the duty to ensure that hon. Members do not treat the House with contempt. As the Daily Mirror today has made it abundantly clear that the Prime Minister has constantly misled the House and treated it with gross contempt by saying that there has been no intervention in the miners' strike, may I ask what steps you, Mr. Speaker, intend to take to ensure that the Prime Minister comes to the Dispatch Box today to explain why she said one thing in the House of Commons and the exact opposite in talks at No. 10 with leaders of the National Coal Board, British Rail and the rest? If she is not prepared to do that, will you refer the matter to the proper parliamentary Committee so that the Prime Minister is brought to book for that gross contempt?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am not responsible for leaks in newspapers. Nor can I force the Prime Minister to come and answer questions. On the last part of the question, as the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a formula for dealing with that matter.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you help us by ensuring that the inquiry to be instigated by No. 10 into the disclosures in the Daily Mirror is properly carried out? Should not the Leader of the House have told us the terms of reference of the inquiry, whether it is to be conducted by the police, which Government Departments and public sector industries will be required to give evidence, when the findings will be published and whether they will be publicly available? Reservations were expressed earlier about the acceptability of some of the language used in the House, but whatever our disagreements about that, I am sure that there is a general desire that the House should be given information about the Government's intentions in these very serious matters, since it is clear that the Prime Minister and other Ministers have deceived the public and the House of Commons. Surely the House is entitled to know from the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House what the Executive are doing to inquire into these very serious allegations.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I say again that it is not for me to advise on parliamentary tactics.