British Rail (Wage Negotiations)

– in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 6th June 1984.

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Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 3:50 pm, 6th June 1984

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the Government's role in the recent British Rail wage negotiations. The matter is specific because of the publication in today's Daily Mirror of correspondence which we can assume is authentic, in view of the statement today that the Prime Minister has announced an inquiry into the leak of such correspondence. That correspondence clearly involves the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Transport and other Ministers in direct Government intervention in British Rail wage negotiations.

The issue is important because the House was informed in a parliamentary reply by the Secretary of State for Transport to my hon. Friends the Members for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) and for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), inquiring into his involvement in such discussions: Wage levels in British Rail are for negotiation between the British Railways Board and the unions. The chairman of British Rail naturally keeps me informed."—[Official Report, 9 April 1984; Vol. 58 c. 27.] Today's published correspondence, dated from 2 April, makes it clear that the Secretary of State and his Department, together with other Ministers, were, both before and after the parliamentary reply, involved in delaying the settlement of the wage negotiations and increasing the final offer. The Secretary of State misled the House about his involvement and the House should be given an opportunity to debate the issue and pass judgment upon his actions.

The issue is of great urgency in view of the clearly exposed Government strategy to instruct settlements in the rail industry and other public sector industries in order to prevent further industrial disputes while they continue their vendetta against the miners and their families, despite repeated denials by the Prime Minister that she does not want to see any further role for Government intervention.

This House has a right to pass judgment upon the Government's pretence of no intervention in public sector wage negotiations, while directing nationalised industry chairmen to carry out the Government's vindictive and arbitrary public sector wage policy.

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

The hon. Gentleman asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, The Government's role in the recent British Rail wage negotiations. I listened with great care to what the hon. Gentleman said, but I regret that I do not consider the matter that he has raised to be appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

The hon. Gentleman will know that there are other ways to raise these matters.