Industrial Situation

– in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 24th July 1989.

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Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield 5:17 pm, 24th July 1989

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the serious industrial situation directly created by Government policy, which has compelled large numbers of workers to withdraw their labour in order to maintain their living standards in the face of rising prices and higher mortgage interest charges; and to protect essential services, public safety and civil liberties, which are threatened by other Government policies. Hon. Members who support those who are now on strike have been unable to put their case before the House and the public, and Ministers have been protected from having to justify their actions, which have precipitated the problems now being experienced by the public.

The dockers have been denied the protection of their jobs, and their employers have been dismissing those who are taking action in order to intimidate the men to return to work on the old and brutal casual basis.

Town hall staffs are the direct victims of a persistent assault upon local services, which are understaffed and underfunded, at the expense of the communities that depend on them. All this is happening at a time when the Chancellor has announced a huge budget surplus.

The basic rate for a railman is £103·60 a week, and average earnings last year were £196·80, based on overtime of 13 hours and an average 52-hour week. Contrast hat with the astronomical salaries of chairmen of major companies, such as Lord King of British Airways, who has received an increase of 115 per cent. bringing his earnings to £7,423 per week. Sir Peter Walters of BP receives £9,000 a week, Mr. Rowland £19,000 a week and Lord Hanson £23,000 a week.

During the winter of 1978–79, 48 applications were made for emergency debates on the industrial situation, and some of them were allowed by the then Speaker. I urgently request you, Mr. Speaker, to allow this application before the House rises, if only on the ground that the reputation of Parliament will be damaged if those who elected us to this place to protect their interests and concerns find that we in Parliament have no time to consider their demands for justice and fair play.

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

The right hon. Gentleman seeks 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 serious industrial situation directly created by the Government's policy". I have listened with care to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. As he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given priority over the business already set down for this evening or tomorrow. I regret that the matter which he has raised does not meet the requirements of the order and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.