§ Message on behalf of Her Majesty [3rd August] considered:
§ Message again read:
§ The Emergency Powers Act, 1920, as amended by the Emergency Powers Act, 1964, having enacted that if it appears to Her Majesty that there have occurred or are about to occur events of such a nature as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel or light, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life, Her Majesty may, by Proclamation, declare that a state of emergency exists; and the present stoppage of work among persons employed in the ports having, in Her Majesty's opinion, constituted a state of emergency within the meaning of the said Act of 1920 as so amended.
§ Her Majesty has deemed it proper, by Proclamation dated the 3rd day of August, 1972, and made in pursuance of the said Act of 1920, as so amended, to declare that a state of emergency exists.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robert Carr)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Message communicating to this House that Her Majesty deems it proper by Proclamation, made in pursuance of the Emergency Powers Act 1920, as amended by the Emergency Powers Act 1964, and dated 3rd August 1972, to declare that a state of emergency exists.In opening the debate I propose to concern myself with the measures which the Government may have to take to deal with the emergency confronting the country. It is not my task to analyse the dispute which led to this national dock strike, a strike which, alas, has now lasted for two weeks. Only last week we had a full-day discussion on the industrial situation. I am confident that it will be the wish of all hon. Members that 1581 nothing is said today on this serious situation which might prejudice a settlement of the dispute.
As the House will know, considerable efforts are being made to reach a negotiated settlement, and that is being done on the basis of the recommendations contained in the Jones-Aldington Report. I am sure that the whole House hopes that they will be successful. I believe that the House should be concerned today with the action the Government are taking to protect the whole community against the threat, which is an inevitable consequence of a national dock strike, to the essentials of life of the community as a whole.
I now propose to outline briefly to the House the purposes of the emergency regulations which came into force last Friday. Hon. Members may wish to raise details, and perhaps even legal points, on the regulations during the debate. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will be pleased to deal with them when he winds up.
As the House knows, the proclamation of a state of emergency was made on Thursday last, 3rd August. On the same day, the Emergency (No. 2) Regulations, 1972, were made. They were laid before Parliament and they came into operation the following day—that is, at the beginning of last Friday, 4th August.
Section 1 of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, empowers Her Majesty to proclaim a state of emergency when something has occurred which constitutes a threat to the essentials of life of the community because it interferes with the supplies of food, water, fuel or light, or transport.
To declare a state of emergency and to take the emergency powers which go with it are serious actions. They ought not to be taken lightly. It is right that Parliament should always question such actions seriously and fully.
Equally, however, it must be recognised that any Government have an over-riding duty to protect the essentials of life of the whole community; and in a country as dependent as we are in the United Kingdom on imports of food and raw materials for our factories it has always been recognised that a national dock strike, perhaps more than any other sort of industrial dispute, quickly presents a threat to essential supplies which cannot be ignored.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
The Secretary of State is talking about the threat to our lifeline, so to speak, and the need, as he sees it, to bring in the regulations. Does he intend to say anything tonight about how the need to introduce the regulations could be avoided by having a settlement of the dispute? Are we to have a report on the progress of the negotiations? I asked for this last week. It is essential that it is made to the House. I hope that the Secretary of State will deal with it.
§ Mr. Carr
As I made clear, I am dealing with the emergency regulations. This is my job. It is the traditional job of the Home Secretary on these occasions. I have already said that this matter was debated fully last week. A whole day was found for it specially at the request of the Opposition. Our promptness in finding time for that debate was welcomed by the Opposition. We all know the background. We have all debated the background.
We all know that this is being dealt with on the basis of the Jones-Aldington Committee, which I think was generally agreed to be the basis of the most hopeful line of settlement of this dispute, and which I believe was generally welcomed on both sides of the House. What has been happening today, of which I cannot be aware and this is why I cannot report, is that there has been a further meeting of the Jones-Aldington Committee. For all I know, as I have been in the House all afternoon, that may still be going on.
I can tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will certainly make a statement to the House before we rise for the recess tomorrow, as we are to do, if resulting from the meeting today there is anything which we can usefully report to the House. My right hon. Friend certainly will not be backward in making a statement.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Does the Secretary of State agree that the debate last week was not confined entirely to the dock strike but was on the general situation arising from the application of the Industrial Relations Act, including the immediate situation of the dock strike? Therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West 1583 (Mr. Orme) is justified in saying that when debating emergency powers arising out of a dock strike we are entitled to hear the latest situation which has arisen in relation to that dispute.
§ Mr. Carr
Not necessarily, I think. Nor will the hon. Gentleman find that this has always been the case, if he will look back. As far as I know, there is nothing to prevent hon. Members from raising this issue; but that is a matter for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and not for me. As Home Secretary it is my responsibility to bring in the emergency regulations and explain them to the House. That is the traditional responsibility of the Home Secretary—[Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite, instead of getting so steamed up, will look back and see what happened under the Labour Government, they will see that exactly the same thing happened: the then Home Secretary introduced the Motion and the Attorney-General of the day replied. In this case it is my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General who is to reply.
What we are doing is entirely in the tradition of the House and is how it should be done and how it was done by a Labour Government on the two occasions when they had to do this. Hon. Members are perfectly entitled to say that it should be done differently. What they are not entitled to say is that somehow or other this Government are doing matters differently from the way their Government did them when the Labour Government had to take similar measures.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well as Leader of the House that when he announced business for this week my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) immediately linked this debate with the request for a debate on the dock situation. Therefore, although I am not speaking in any spirit of hostility at this point in the debate, would it not be much better for the debate to be wound up by the Secretary of State for Employment so that the relevant part of the debate—the position in the docks—can be put before the debate concludes and the House is asked to vote, rather than that being stated tomorrow morning?
§ Mr. Carr
I do not think so. Nor have my predecessors in this or in other Governments thought so.
It would not be a bad thing—here I speak with some feeling as a former Secretary of State for Employment—if the House, particularly the Opposition, could revert to what used to be the tradition of the House, which was that when there was an industrial dispute actively going on the House tried not to speak about it or debate it in a way which was aggravating and controversial. I know full well the traditions of the House. I was Secretary of State for Employment two years ago when there was a dock strike—this was before the Industrial Relations Bill was introduced—and the strictures I am now making of the Opposition were well justified at that time as well. I believe that it would be for the good of the House and of the country if we could get back to what always used to be the position, whether it was under a Labour Government or under a Conservative Government: namely, that the responsible Minister's choice of the moment to come and make statements, and, equally, his choice of the moment when not to come and make statements to the House, was on the whole respected by both sides.
Nobody can accuse either my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment or myself when I was in his position of being shy of coming to the House. What we claim is the right, in view of the delicate situation of industrial disputes, to choose our moment to come to the House as responsibly as we can in relation to our overall duty, which is to try to bring the dispute to a solution.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will come, and is eager to come, to the House as soon as he can. However, the Jones-Aldington Committee is sitting today. I do not know what time the Committee finished its deliberations today, because I have been in the House all afternoon. I do not know whether the Committee has yet reported to my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Carr
What a ridiculous thing to say, and this from an hon. Member who was once an industrial correspondent and who claims to know something about 1585 these matters. That is ignorant troublemaking of which he should be ashamed, and that is all I have seen him indulge in since he became a Member of the House.
§ Mr. Grant
The right hon. Gentleman has told the House that he does not know what the situation is. I have merely suggested that if he lifted the telephone, which I should have thought was within the realm of possibility, he would have learned what the current situation was and would not now be standing at the Dispatch Box in ignorance.
§ Mr. Carr
It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Employment and not of the Home Secretary to do that. It is his duty to judge the situation of the moment. That is what has always happened. [Interruption.] From my 22 years' experience in the House and from all that I have read about matters before that time I have never known of an Opposition of either party who have sought to deny the responsible Minister the right to choose his moment to come and report to the House when requested by the House to do so. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I intend to speak in this debate. The Secretary of State has impugned my intentions. I shall have to speak with realism about the situation in the docks, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will listen to me. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that during the one emergency which took place under the Government whom I supported the Government benches had their say about the emergency and their strictures were to the point. It is a national emergency, and I am sure he recognises that his remarks have not covered that situation.
§ Mr. Carr
I am not impugning the hon. Member. I hope he knows me well enough to know that I would not do that. But it is not responsible for the Opposition to expect me as Home Secretary on this occasion to report to the House about the intricacies of an industrial dispute when it is not my responsibility. That is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who will report at the first moment that he believes it is in the national interest so to do. That is what I am saying, and that is all I am saying. If I am getting angry with hon. Members 1586 opposite, as I admit I have been—and it does not happen very often—it is because I genuinely believe that in the last two years they have not been respecting what has been the tradition. Traditionally the rôle of the Minister of Labour—the Secretary of State for Employment as he is now called—is a delicate and difficult one, and the House respects this and does not make a difficult situation worse than it need be, not just for the Government but for the whole country.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for allowing me to enter into the intervention debate that he is having with the Opposition. We on the Government side would wish to get the earliest possible settlement on the right terms. The fact remains that there is only the Jones-Aldington Committee, or a variant of it, with which to obtain a settlement. We are more concerned that the rest of the country should not be thoroughly upset by the situation in the docks, which is getting worse, and that other industries, particularly the farming industry should not be wrecked. We therefore want to know whether the Home Secretary intends to introduce whatever is necessary under the emergency regulations to ensure that the rest of the country does not suffer unduly.
§ Mr. Carr
I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said, and that is why I must stick to my responsibilities as Home Secretary to introduce the regulations. That is what happens traditionally in these cases. It would be totally wrong of me to be drawn into commenting on the dispute. Whatever I may have said in the heat of the moment about hon. Members of the Opposition, I shall try not to be roused again in that way. I intend not to be drawn by any method into expressing any view about the merits of the dispute. I shall seek only to do my proper job.
§ Mr. McNamara
The right hon. Gentleman should remember that he is 1587 also the Leader of the House. He has said that if there should be something to be said tomorrow the Secretary of State for Employment will say it. There is an important aspect in that tomorrow the House will rise for two months. We therefore feel it incumbent upon the Government to make a statement at least about the present situation before the House rises. That is why we were demanding it last week.
§ Mr. Carr
I take that point, and the Secretary of State for Employment is here now. It might help the House to know that I have been passed a note to say that the Jones-Aldington Committee is still sitting. I hope the House will give credit to my right hon. Friend and will trust him to exercise his duty in a responsible manner, and that is what I am asking it to do.
There is no immediate shortage of food but after 10 full days with the country's ports at a virtual standstill, while it may be true as yet that only a few imported fruits are in short supply in the shops, it is clear that were the strike to continue for any considerable period without any remedial action we should begin to experience increasing shortages of a much wider range of foods. Already my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is particularly concerned about the shortage of animal feeding stuffs, and this has obvious consequences for home food production at seocnd remove. Of course, we hope that the strike will end shortly, in which event things will quickly come back to normal, but we must at least provide for the worst to happen, on a contingency basis, and that is the background to the proclamation and the making of the regulations which are now before the House.
Subject to parliamentary approval, the regulations will continue in operation for as long as the state of emergency continues, and under Section 1 of the 1920 Act that means for a period of one calendar month from the date of proclamation. If, as we sincerely hope it will not, the emergency situation continued beyond that period, the state of emergency could be extended by a further proclamation and by the making of fresh 1588 regulations, which would also, within seven days, have to be subject to the approval of Parliament. If that, unfortunately, were to become the state of affairs both Houses would have to be recalled for the purpose. Let us hope that that situation will not arise.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman yet again but he seems to have passed the point where he was describing possible shortages. Will he say something about the position in the northern isles. My right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is there now, and the general picture that the Home Secretary has outlined for the country as a whole does not apply there, where the situation is extremely serious.
§ Mr. Carr
We are, of course, particularly concerned about the islands, not only the northern islands but the other islands around our coasts. In the past sometimes on occasions such as this the dockers have been prepared to take special action. [HON. MEMBERS: "They will this time."] I hope hon. Members will give me a chance to say so; if they were a little less excited perhaps we could get on better. I did not say that they were not prepared to take special action this time. I was going to add, if given half a chance, that they have been so prepared this time. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland is in close touch with the local authorities. There was a special airlift of fuel oil yesterday and I know, quite apart from special approaches to dockers in various ports, that the need for further airlifts of true emergency supplies is being considered.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
The Home Secretary said that on former occasions the dockers have been helpful. On this occasion the dockers in Glasgow and Aberdeen have been more than helpful, and the people on the islands have thanked them for their help. They have not been more successful because of the action of the Social Security Department. The Provost of Stornoway expressed his thanks to the dockers in this morning's papers and said that he hoped to meet them. The intervention of the Social Security Department has prevented them from doing what they wanted to do.
§ Mr. Carr
I wanted the hon. Member to intervene because I thought he might wish to raise that point. It is an important one and it is right to say something about it. We should be careful in using the expression "Social Security Department". The 1966 Act was introduced by the Labour Government. Hon. Members opposite know at least as well as I do that the Supplementary Benefits Commission is, as it was meant to be, an independent body. It does not bow to the wishes of this Secretary of State or any other Secretary of State. It operates the Act and the rules laid down under it, and that Act—I make no point about it, but it happens to be the fact—was passed by the Labour Government in 1966.
The Supplementary Benefits Commission, operating the 1966 Act, has taken a decision in relation to the dockers who expressed a wish to have the equivalent of what would have been their pay made over to a charity. The independent Commissioners have given their ruling. Under the procedure laid down by the 1966 Act, that ruling has been appealed against, and neither I nor my right hon. Friend may interfere in that independent appeal procedure. That is the situation. There is nothing that I or my right hon. Friend can do about it, because the Supplementary Benefits Commission is operating its rules in its own independent way.
§ Mr. Carr
It is all very well to say that, but if there is anything wrong in the Act or the rules, or in the Commission, its powers, membership and constitution, hon. Members opposite must take the blame for it. I do not believe that there is anything wrong, and I am not saying that there is, but I do say that it is not fair, if anyone is thinking of doing so, to make this a matter of party debate, since the matter stands as I have set it out. Whatever any of us may think about it, it is the decision of the Commission, and we must leave it to the appeal machinery.
§ Mr. Dunn
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to paragraph 27 of Schedule 2 to the 1966 Act, which is affected also by certain provisions of the 1971 Act. This interpretation has been applied for the first time in the present docks situation. It has never been applied before. I have been dealing with the matter personally, and I know that on Merseyside the men who were involved are now receiving supplementary benefit, whereas in other parts of the country they are not. There is inconsistency here.
§ Mr. Carr
I know the situation which arose in Liverpool. I think that the Commission ruled that a mistake had been made in one case in paying benefit, but, since it had been made in one case, the fairest way was to make it in the other cases while at the same time restating the rule and emphasising what it was. I do not believe that the 1971 Act affects the situation here, but my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has been listening to what has been said and he will give a categorical answer one way or the other on whether the position is in any way affected by the 1971 Act.
The regulations which have been laid before the House, as always on these occasions, have necessarily been drafted to cover a wide variety of situations, a far wider variety than I sincerely hope will have to be coped with in practice. I stress again that, in seeking these powers now, all we are doing is to ensure that they are available without delay should the need for their use arise.
I wish to make absolutely clear that there will be no use of these powers beyond what is necessary to ensure the essentials of life to the community. We believe that they must be there in a situation of national dock strike, but we shall not use them beyond what is genuinely essential to protect the life of the community. Similarly, it is the Government's firm intention the moment it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that the emergency powers are no longer necessary, to end the state of emergency and to end the regulations.
Little use has so far been made of the regulations in the few days they have been in force, although my right hon. Friend, under paragraph 4 of Regulation 3, has appointed port emergency committees in all the major ports. Initially, 1591 they will report to him about the state of the ports, and later, if necessary, under his directions, they could take the action required to control traffic in those ports.
A total of 40 regulations is a formidable amount of subordinate legislation. Several of the regulations confer extensive powers upon Ministers to make further orders, to give directions or to issue general or special authorities. The House has had an opportunity to study the regulations since they were laid last Thursday. It will have been noted that they are substantially the same as those made last February on the occasion of the national coal strike, the only exception of substance being the addition of one new regulation to which I shall refer later.
I shall not take the time of the House in analysing each regulation in detail, but perhaps it will be convenient if I give a brief explanation of their purpose, taking them in various blocks. The first two regulations are concerned with the title, commencement and interpretation. We then come to Regulations Nos. 3 to 5 which relate to the control of ports and port employment. I have already referred to the appointment of port emergency committees under Regulation No. 3.
The next block of regulations, Nos. 6 to 15, relates to the power to relax certain existing restrictions applicable to road transport, if that should be necessary.
In the next block, Regulations Nos. 16 to 20 enable the relaxation of obligations and restrictions as to public services and facilities, including transport services, electricity and gas supply, water supply and resources, and sewerage and sewage disposal, obvious essentials of life in respect of which the Government might have to take action in an emergency.
Regulations Nos. 21 to 24 enable Ministers to regulate the supply and distribution of fuel, food and animal feeding stuffs and to control the prices of food and animal feeding stuffs. I know that considerable concern is felt, quite naturally, about the possibility of exorbitant price rises, and there are those who have urged the Government to make immediate use of this power. We shall listen carefully to the arguments which, no doubt, will be presented during the debate about the need to use this price 1592 control power. We shall consider it, but we should be misleading the public if we were to suggest, or appear to suggest, that price control provides an easy way of protecting them against the hardships of a dock strike.
When supplies are cut short, only an elaborate administrative machinery backed by a system of rationing can make general price controls effective. The Government doubt, therefore, that in a short-term situation such as this—as we hope it will be—the necessary administrative machinery could be constructed to deal effectively with the price problem which may arise. It is noteworthy that so far, in previous states of emergency, successive Governments have not found it feasible to make price control effective. On the other hand, I assure the House that, if the crisis were, unfortunately, unduly prolonged, the Government would certainly examine the extent to which it would be right and might be helpful to use price control and other available powers to deal with the supply of essential foods.
I come now to Regulation No. 25, which is new. This is not a regulation which is likely to be used in the present emergency, even if others are. It is designed to facilitate rapid recourse to alternative sources of drugs and medicines where normal channels are impeded. In this country, we build up a corpus of regulations necessary to deal with an emergency, and experience in the last one indicated to us that this regulation should be added to the corpus so that in certain circumstances the procedures involved in the import of drugs and essential medicines could, if necessary, be short-circuited. However, as I say, it is hardly likely to be used in the present dispute, even if others have to be.
Power to waive the provisions of the Medicines Act is already held by the Secretary of State for Social Services in respect of most drugs and medicines, other than those used primarily for the treatment of animal diseases, in which case my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has the power to waive the relevant parts of the Act. But my two right hon. Friends could use those new powers for the emergency importing of drugs and medicines if the need should arise, although I do not think it is likely in this dispute.
1593 Regulations 26–29 enable the appropriate Minister to control transport services, including road, rail, air and sea transport.
Regulations 30 and 31 give power to requisition chattels and to take possession of land.
Regulations 32–40 repeat the provisions of earlier regulations, mainly with regard to offences and penalties.
That is a brief account of the scope of the regulations. They are wide, as I believe they must, and should, be on an occasion like this, although I repeat that I hope that their use will not have to be widespread. Certainly, we shall not use any of them unless it is absolutely essential.
Finally, I stress that the regulations are not directed against the dockers or their union. Their purpose is not to break the strike. It is to protect the life of the community. They are not a means of bringing Government pressure to bear on the parties in the dispute. The Government are simply acting to discharge their duty to the nation as a whole to secure the maintenance of the essentials of life.
I believe that the House will therefore support the Government's actions. I am sure that I speak for the whole House in expressing the hope that there will be a speedy end to the dispute. Far from saying anything which might exacerbate feeling and in any way put back the prospect of a settlement, I hope that we can all join in a call, which I know will be echoed by the whole nation, to the parties involved to consider the overall public interest as well as their own genuine interests, to seek a quick settlement of the strike and thus put to an end the need for the powers.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
We do not intend to oppose the Motion, nor shall we want to try to go over the ground covered in last week's debate. But hon. Members on this side, and I hope hon. Members on both sides, will want to discuss the docks crisis to a far greater extent than the Secretary of State for the Home Department did when he opened the debate. We are bound to do so to some extent by reference to the general deterioration of industrial relations under the present Government. We 1594 are bound to reflect that this is the fourth time in just over two years that it has been necessary for the Government to seek emergency powers and that this is a symptom of the deterioration of industrial relations. They are in a worse state than at any period in the post-war years, not only a worse state than under the Labour Government but a worse state than under Conservative Governments before 1964.
The fact that we must have this debate, that we must have a Motion in which the Government ask for the powers, is a symptom of the great difficulty into which their policies have plunged our country. I believe, as many of my hon. Friends said earlier when they interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, that we should have had an assessment of the docks strike situation. That could have been achieved by the Secretary of State for Employment speaking in the debate. Alternatively, the Home Secretary, as a senior Minister, could have been briefed on the situation and have given us an assessment of it as Ministers see it tonight.
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that none of us would want to say a word tonight that would make a settlement more difficult, but it is possible to have an objective discussion of the situation without inflaming passions on either side of the argument, and that is what the House should be doing.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that he regrets the old days when industrial disputes were hardly ever discussed on the Floor of the House. I have two comments to make. First, he is the last person to lecture us on that, because he and his colleagues have made the subject much more partisan than it has ever been in the past. It is their legislation, their general policy of confrontation, that has turned industrial relations into a major subject of political dispute in a way that it has not been in the past. Secondly, I believe that the best habits and those that prevailed some years ago when the House was too inclined to say "We must never discuss an industrial dispute." These are matters of great importance to the nation and they should be discussed in the House. They can be discussed here without necessarily being discussed in a way that makes a solution more difficult.
We were told just now that the JonesAldington Committee is still meeting this 1595 evening. One thing that can unite us all is that we all profoundly hope that the meeting will make substantial progress towards a settlement. We profoundly hope that it will be possible for the union leaders to recall the dock delegate conference very shortly, that they will have something positive and new to say to that dock delegate conference and that they will be able to make a recommendation that will be accepted by the delegates that there should be a return to work. If that is to happen, it will require constructive thinking on both sides of the argument, not merely a compromise but constructive thinking about the very difficult problems.
I do not think I am being in any sense partisan if I say that the immediate problem is more constructive thinking on the employers' side. When I speak of the employers' side I am not referring to Lord Aldington and his collagues on the committee. One of the difficulties of the situation is that they do not speak, and have never had the power to speak, for all the employers involved in the problems under discussion.
I want to refer here particularly to the second of the third main recommendation of the committee, the recommendation on container groupage work, on page 7 of the report. It says:Accordingly unions, port authorities and employers should seek agreements with appropriate outside interests about container groupage work on the lines of agreements already made between, for instance, the unions and the port authorities and some Containerbase Companies, giving preference to the recruitment of registered dock workers.I underline two points in particular. The report refers to that fact that already there have been agreements in many areas. Certainly in the Merseyside area there has been a number of agreements already for the employment of dock workers in groupage container work. I also want to emphasise—and I hope that this point is taken by Conservative Members and the employers concerned—that the key words here areto the recruitment of registered dock workers.The unions are not saying that when a large manufacturer packs his own containers in his own plant he must employ dockers to do it. They are saying that where there is a groupage centre where 1596 several small loads are brought together so that the container is stuffed with various loads, work of that kind is essentially dock work and should be performed by registered dock workers.
That is something we have accepted almost automatically in every other industry. Where technological change leads to a reduction in the number of jobs, and perhaps to a different character of the work involved, we have normally assumed that the existing workers in the industry concerned have the first claim to do the new kind of work. We have assumed that when coal-cutting machinery is introduced into coal mines it will be operated by coal miners. We have assumed that if a factory goes over to automation so that the old type of work is changed, the existing workers will have first claim on the new types of job in the factory. This seems to me to be the essence of the argument affecting these container depots.
It is not sufficient for the employers to say, as some have been saying, "We will take on so many dockers if they will leave the register, take their severance pay and then work for us at wages lower than dock wages". The dockers are entitled to an assurance that they will work these depots as dockers, with all those conditions which have been agreed for dock work, in what is essentially a docker's job. This part of the report, which I agree is an excellent document, was necessarily more vague than other parts for the reason I have mentioned—that Lord Aldington and his colleagues cannot speak with the same degree of authority for the employers I am talking about as they can for the port authorities. Nevertheless this difficulty must be overcome, and it must be overcome by the employers themselves making the necessary statement in the next few days. If they do not make that statement, I believe that they will be betraying the nation and perhaps prolonging the docks strike, with the ruin of their own business. The responsibility is a heavy one but it must be faced squarely.
Clearly I would not say, and have never said, that the dockers do not also have a responsibility. If sufficient progress is made for the leaders of the Transport and General Workers Union to feel able to recall the docks conference and say "We have made progress but more has to be done", I hope that the delegates 1597 would see fit to call off the strike, because there are large numbers of these firms, some very small, and the whole job of negotiating with all of them will not be done in a matter of days. After the success of the committee over the last week or two in getting a number of important employers to accept this formula, I hope that there can be a return to work, with further negotiations over the weeks and months ahead.
If the dock strike goes on much longer, the effects will be very serious to everyone involved. I believe that the country can afford a docks strike for the sort of period we have seen so far and perhaps a little longer, but very little longer. If the strike goes on for any length of time there will be very great hardship, as there always is, first of all for the dockers and their families. We should not forget this in any strike situation. The men and their families are the first victims because they are not getting paid.
Secondly there are the financial and possibly ruinous difficulties for port employers and other employers on the fringe. Thirdly there is great difficulty for the economy. The consumer protection which we have been reading about will not turn out very well if there is a docks strike of any length. Fourthly there is the effect as I am sure the dockers themselves are aware, on other workers, who may be laid off from their job if the strike is prolonged.
There is yet another effect which is too often neglected—the international effect. One reads of cargoes of grapes from Cyprus or of bananas from Jamaica and elsewhere. People in poor countries with very low standards of living could be affected by the prolongation of a strike of this kind. The world is becoming more and more inter-dependent. I am sure that we on this side can make an appeal to our fellow trade unionists to remember the demand for international solidarity among workers involved in a situation of this kind. If either the employers or the workers prolong the strike a day longer than necessary, they will not deserve any sympathy or support from anyone else in the country.
I turn now to the emergency powers. The content is very largely the same as on previous occasions but the right hon. Gentleman mentioned an additional point. Potentially these are very drastic powers— 1598 they have to be because, that is the meaning of the word "emergency". They would not be emergency powers unless they were potentially drastic. It is absolutely vital that they be used as sparingly as possible. I was glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said on this aspect.
I was struck by a phrase used in a leader in The Times on Friday, which said that the Minister should use these powersno sooner and no further than necessity requires.I put to the House two clear reasons for this. The first is that the powers by their nature interfere with individual freedom in ways we all find repugnant, not merely in the sense that orders can be given to people to do things through the requisitioning of their property, or whatever it may be, but also because protection is removed from people. For example, there is the clause concerning drivers' hours, which is a very serious matter. There are other serious matters of this kind in which the normal statutory protections afforded to people do not have to apply if regulations are issued.
The second reason for the sparing use of the powers is relevant to the dispute itself. The right hon. Gentleman said that the purpose of the Government was not to strike-break. He said that the powers were being sought in order to protect vital supplies. Of course I accept that as being a sincere statement of the Government's view but, whether they like it or not, the use of these powers inevitably has a strike-breaking effect. It is a dilemma which we must face frankly.
The purpose of a dock strike is to interfere with supplies, and to do so not in order to attack the consumer but to attack the employers. But if the Government take any step to secure the passage of supplies for the sake of the consumer and the national economy or whatever it may be, inevitably they are to some extent taking pressure off the employers. It is a genuine dilemma which any Government have to face—I am not making a partisan point—in operating emergency powers in a strike in a vital industry. The use of emergency powers at all is in a sense something which can lessen the effectiveness of the strike weapon. Therefore, it is of vital importance that the words used by the 1599 right hon. Gentleman should be honoured absolutely in the period ahead and that there should be a minimum use of the powers.
I particularly seek an assurance from the Solicitor-General on this additional point. The House should be assured that the Government have no intention, as they see the situation at the moment, of using troops. Just as the use of any powers would be provocative, the use of troops would be particularly so. That is a fact of the situation and we should have an assurance about it.
The right hon. Gentleman failed to tell us as much as he might have done about the state of essential supplies. He stated what the powers could do if used. He said that there was no general shortage of food at the moment although there was some anxiety about animal feeding stuffs. Perhaps we can have a more detailed statement about the main commodities about which there is anxiety, both as they affect the country as a whole and as they affect the remote areas, such as the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Western Isles and other parts of the country where there is particular difficulty. What shortages do the Government think may arise, and how soon? How soon do they expect to have to operate some of the powers they are seeking? I realise that a lot of this will be guesswork and I realise that Ministers will be reluctant to guess in public when things may not work out in that way.
The Government are seeking from us tonight a considerable blank cheque. Emergency powers are always a blank cheque to some extent but emergency powers sought and obtained on the eve of a long parliamentary recess are particularly a blank cheque. We are therefore entitled to share in the Government's thinking on the contingencies that might arise particularly over the next week or two. The right hon. Gentleman said that the powers would need to be renewed—if the dock strike and the emergency continued. They will lapse automatically within a calendar month and if there were no renewal of the proclamation the Government would have to seek parliamentary powers in another seven days. If the worst comes to the worst we will be back here in four or five weeks' time for a similar debate.
1600 I put this point to the Leader of the House. There could be circumstances—I sincerely hope there will not be—in which we on this side would be asking the Government for an earlier recall than that if the situation were seriously to deteriorate in the next week or two. If the use of emergency powers has been so extensive there could arise a situation in which it would be better that the House should reassemble for a debate on the situation possibly before the expiry of the calendar month. I hope that this will not happen but I am bound to put down that marker that we may have to demand the recall of Parliament if this situation arises.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was more defeatist than he need be on the question of price control. He said the Government would certainly examine the possibilities of working along these lines. Of course the establishment of a bureaucratic structure to enforce price control in every detail, in every High Street in the land, is something that could not be operated but there might be a case for issuing regulations which could be enforced selectively. The very issuing of those regulations with some selective prosecutions if necessary could have a healthy effect on the situation, on what people on low incomes, pensioners and others, have to pay for their goods. I do not think that the difficulty about enforcement is necessarily the complete answer to what has been put forward by some of my hon. Friends.
To what extent will Ministers be in touch with the Transport and General Workers' Union about certain cargoes? The dockers have responded very well to certain situations in the last few days, supplies for the Northern and Western Isles, the school cruise ship in Liverpool and even the white rhinoceroses which had to be brought ashore in a hurry. Whether all those priorities are necessarily the most important I do not know. There might be other things which should have been done rather than looking after rhinoceroses. I only ask what communication exists between Ministers and the union, again to be used sparingly. In certain situations there might be suggestions which could be made.
If this is to work out constructively, the supplementary benefit position must be properly resolved. The right hon. 1601 Gentleman said that the commission and the appeal tribunal are independent authorities and that Ministers cannot give them directives. This may be so but at the same time they are public authorities and we in this House can comment on the effects of their decisions and we are bound to comment on what has been happening.
§ Mr. Orme
On this vexatious question, my right hon. Friend says that the Minister claims that he is not responsible. If that is the case why did the Under-Secretary at the Department defend this decision on television last night and aggravate the situation? The telephone calls that I have had from my dockers today show that they believe the Government have deliberately interfered in this.
§ Mr. Prentice
This is a valid point. Ministers must recognise that people will feel that the Government have interfered. The Under-Secretary was right to go on television, because Ministers are bound to be involved, whatever the legality of the decision-making process. Ministers have to try to see that supplies reach Orkney and Shetland, for example, and that dockers who volunteer for this work are able to do so without their families losing supplementary benefit. This is so much in the public interest that some way must be found of coping with it. If necessary we should be asked to sit for an extra day to amend the necessary Act because this is vitally important.
Of course the dockers will not take their wages and spend them because this would be unacceptable when they are on strike and their fellow-workers are not earning wages. Equally they are entitled to say "We do not see why the employer should get away with it, why we should do this work without the employer meeting the cost." Some way out of this dilemma must be found.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) has been very active in this matter and has, I understand, done a good deal to achieve a temporary solution of the problem on Merseyside which may be applicable elsewhere. I hope that he will enlarge on these points if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In a matter as serious as this, Ministers cannot suggest that they are not bound to try to find an answer to the dilemma.
1602 I conclude as I began. We shall not oppose the Motion but we are deeply disturbed at the sad state of industrial relations which has led to the present situation. Many of us were encouraged to read during the last few days of the talks between the Government and the CBI and the TUC, and we hope that they will lead to constructive results. However, the whole prospect can be destroyed by the industrial relations situation which is directly traceable to the confrontation policy of the Government and the Industrial Relations Act. Unless the Government are prepared to recognise frankly the part which the Act has played, including the history of the docks crisis in the last few weeks, they are in for worse trouble in the period ahead. Unless they recognise urgently the need to repeal, suspend or drastically amend the Act quickly, they will be in for even worse trouble, which all of us would wish to avoid.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Before I call the next speaker, it will perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I give a short explanation about the way in which the debate should go.
The debate on this Motion must be concluded at 10 o'clock. Then there will have to be decided the business Motion relating to later orders. When that is decided, the Leader of the House will move the second Motion and then this debate will continue as though nothing had happened. The debate on the second Motion can run until 11.30.
I thought that hon. Members who might, as we got nearer to 10 o'clock, have thought that they were being crowded out would like to know that they need not feel that anxiety.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
Although there were elements in the speech of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) with which I could not wholly agree, I think that even his most astringent critic could not claim that he sought to raise the temperature of the House in addressing himself to what is undoubtedly an immensely serious subject. It probably would be to the advantage of this institution if we proceeded in the tone and spirit which the 1603 right hon. Gentleman set. He fairly pointed some of the dilemmas which confront us on these occasions. He talked about the dilemma that powers of this nature could be construed only as being in some sense strike-breaking, or, at the very least, strike-blunting. That is undoubtedly true and we should be foolish to suggest otherwise.
On the other hand, those of us representing constituencies which do not have a direct involvement in the dispute have a responsibility to offer some kind of protection, some kind of safety valve, for large numbers of people who feel that in disputes of this kind they are converted into frustrated and helpless witnesses and, indeed, victims.
The measures that we are being asked to confirm are seen by many members of the public as conferring upon them minimum forms of protection which they have a right to expect from the House. One of the dilemmas we have to solve is how we discharge that responsibility without inflaming the situation in the docks.
It is to that aspect of this many-sided problem that I want to devote my remarks. They derive unashamedly from a major constituency interest. As has been said by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the right hon. Member for East Ham, North, there is already growing disquiet about the shortage of animal feed which may have serious consequences for major sectors of British agriculture. One such sector is heavily represented in North Shropshire.
I will not expose hon. Members to a travelogue of my constituency, but within a 20-mile radius of one small central township, Wem, over a million birds are kept in modest sized poultry units. The area is not dominated by the Eastwood the Ross groups, but it is an area where a great deal of agriculture is devoted to pig and poultry production. One need have only a nodding acquaintance with this evening's final edition of the Evening Standard to realise that the problem has reached serious proportions, which were not indicated by the somewhat bland treatment of the topic by the BBC this morning. I will quote what Mr. Arthur Hawkey has written in a front page article in the Evening Standard: 1604The Prime Minister feels that the Government must not interfere in the purely industrial problem which is considered best left to both sides of industry to solve. For this reason the animal feed situation is not seen as serious enough to warrant the use of troops with its possible provocative effect on dockers on what may be the eve of renewed consideration of their position.I understand those sentiments. I do not know whether they truthfully reflect the situation, but "the use of troops" is one of the more emotive phrases.
I want to look at Section 2(4) of the Emergency Powers Act, which might possibly be used to alleviate the developing dangerous situation for many pig and poultry producers, and to ask whether it is necessary to import the whole evocative phraseology and significance of the use of troops in taking certain measures under the Emergency Powers Act which I think could be productive.
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
I wish to underline my hon. Friend's argument about the serious position of poultry farmers. My hon. Friend mentioned Ross Poultry Limited. That firm has said that in the Andover area next week it is preparing to kill and bury several million broilers.
§ Mr. Biffen
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It certainly underlines my argument and I am sure that if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will be able to demonstrate my argument, which, although a constituency argument, is not a parochial one.
There are three problems I can immediately think of which should properly detain the consideration of my right hon. Friend in the exercise of these measures. First there is the question of the seeming uneven distribution of the existing supplies of imported proteins. I do not know to what extent my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has consulted major importers and compounders to see whether a scheme can be worked out whereby existing supplies can be distributed with a rough and ready measure of equity, because we live in a rough and ready situation. The decision is particularly serious for home mixers who have been exposed to difficulty; and the situation will became even more difficult for them if the strike continues even for another 24 or 48 hours.
1605 I wonder whether in the distribution and allocation of supplies already available my right hon. Friend has been able to work out any system which will give some degree of hope to home mixers. I am informed that many of these people are within two or three days of having to take very severe measures indeed—measures which will practically wipe out large slices of a business which has been built up over many years.
My second point is to ask my right hon. Friend in the exercise of his powers under Regulation 24 of the emergency regulations what consideration he has given to the supplies of imported proteins which have been landed but are on the quayside and, therefore, rendered strike-bound although not still in the ships. I suppose these supplies could be brought into general distributions without the use of troops.
What is the level of supplies of imported proteins which are now at the quayside? I sought to establish this figure to the best of my ability by telephoning around this morning and was told by a reliable source that about 10,000 tons of soya bean meal and 40,000 tons of other protein are lying on the quaysides. If those supplies could be introduced into the general distributive system for pig and poultry farmers, this would give a measure of alleviation to the present situation.
Thirdly, when the strike is concluded—and there is general unanimity of opinion in the House that the sooner the strike is concluded the better—how long does my right hon. Friend think it will be before a fully effective distributive service is operating in respect of animal feed? The lateness of the home harvest, even allowing for all the disadvantages of using freshly harvested barley, makes the difficulties particularly intractable. In the strike which occurred at this time of the year two years ago, nothing like the same stringent considerations seemed to concern the House.
I believe that the points I have sought to emphasise are fair ones. The exercise of powers under Regulation 24 in the way I have indicated would not necessarily inflame the situation in dockland. Any hon. Member who takes part in this debate and advocates the use of powers under the regulations does so under a fairly heavy responsibility since the consequences 1606 in a variety of directions have to be assessed. Once my right hon. Friends bring in emergency powers they raise a sense of expectation. There can be no doubt that they raise a sense of expectation amongst those whose livelihoods are prejudiced by the continuation of a strike in which they feel that they have no part at all, and as long as there is allowed to fester the resentment of the community in general against dock workers in particular that will not provide the backcloth for underlying and desirable social cohesion.
There is therefore a case for the use of these powers quite constructively, not in the sense of strike-breaking but in the guaranteeing of minimum services, and I can assure the House that what I have outlined is the very minimum that my enraged constituents would wish to see operated. They would want to put it in far more direct terms than I have.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
I do not want to interrupt the debate at this stage but I should like to try to answer very briefly, for the benefit of the House, my hon. Friend's three points. We have asked the feedingstuffs merchants, compounders and importers, together with the National Farmers' Union, to do their best themselves to institute a system of rationing, which I think is the most effective way of operating at the moment. I understand that they are in very close contact and that they have so far been able to eke out supplies so that no chickens, pigs or other animals have had to be slaughtered. As far as I can tell, although it is always very difficult to get to the bottom of these things, there is no problem over the next two or three days at any rate. I am in daily touch with these people. I am seeing them all tomorrow night and I hope by then to have more specific news on the subject.
The position about supplies on the quayside is that we have asked Mr. Jones and he has asked dockers at each individual port to release supplies on the quayside where it can be shown that there is an urgent and critical need for them, and we are awaiting results. So far that situation does not appear to have existed, but it shortly will. I cannot give the actual level of supplies on the quayside, but there are very considerable supplies 1607 of protein and high energy cereals held up on the quayside in silos or in stores. But these could be lifted very quickly.
As to how long it will take to get back to normal, my hon. Friend will know that this again is difficult to judge accurately, but I think that certainly within a week we could be back to the full throughput of feeding supplies.
§ Mr. Biffen
I am delighted to have my peroration marred, indeed destroyed, by so helpful an intervention by my right hon. Friend. I will therefore conclude by saying that I am certain that the farming Press and the journalistic services of the agricultural correspondents of radio and television will take very special note of what my right hon. Friend has just said. I hope that in the representations now taking place about voluntary rationing the perfectly legitimate interests of the home mixer will be protected. My right hon. Friend will appreciate that there is to some extent a conflict of interest between National compounders and those very large elements of the agricultural population who, quite legitimately, have developed home mixing as their technique of farming.
I had intended to conclude by saying that the House will confer upon my right hon. Friend very considerable powers and that we will expect those powers to be exercised with tact undoubtedly but that at the end we shall certainly expect those powers to be exercised with decision, because that is exactly what the circumstances require.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I share the hope which has been expressed that the Jones-Aldington Committtee will be able to produce a fair solution in the interests of all as quickly as possible. We are in the midst of a national crisis which affects Coventry, the most inland of cities, as much as it does the Outer Hebrides. I want to address myself to the nature of the crisis and the quality of the emergency powers which the Government now seek.
A foreigner observing our debate might think that it is a striking example of British flair. Here we are, in the midst of a crisis of the greatest magnitude, debating these grave matters in a thinly 1608 attended House in the euphoria of a holiday which is about to begin. We are debating the matter in the almost total absence of the Press. We are discussing these grave issues as if they are merely one part of a general ragbag of end-of-term measures which have to be tidied up before we leave for the vacation.
I say that as no reproach to those hon. Members who are present. The fact of their presence shows their concern in the matter. Nor do I necessarily say it as any kind of reproach to those hon. Members who are absent. But here we are confronting one of the gravest issues of our time. The situation is deteriorating day by day not specifically in relation to the docks but as an aspect of the general decline in the industrial climate. I regret very much that this important subject is being debated in such a thinly attended House.
The emergency regulations themselves are of an importance which only those who have read them with care can appreciate fully. They restrict freedom of speech. In effect, they restrict the right to picket. They attribute to the Government powers of arbitrary arrest. Regulation 2(3) is of the utmost importance to our liberties. It reads:Any reference in these Regulations to the doing of any act shall, unless the context otherwise requires, be construed as including a reference to the making of any statement.I draw that to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends. These emergency powers are not concerned merely with actions which may involve penalties. They are concerned with statements by anyone who may be thought to have it in mind to engage in any action which will attract penalties.
This is a very grave and serious matter, and I go on by quoting one or two others of the regulations which are brought before this House. Regulation 33(3) reads:No person loitering in the vicinity of any premises used or appropriated for the purposes of essential services shall continue to loiter in that vicinity after being requested by the appropriate person to leave it.There follows a description of "the appropriate person".
What does that mean in terms of the traditional right to picket which the right hon. Gentleman defended specifically? It means that anyone who is regarded as 1609 loitering for any purpose whatever, including picketing, may be arrested and subject to the penalties provided for in the regulations.
I quote a third example of the enormous and draconian powers which the Government are acquiring by means of these regulations which are going through "on the nod" tonight. Regulation 36 reads:Where a constable, with reasonable cause, suspects that an offence against any of these Regulations has been committed, he may arrest without warrant anyone whom he, with reasonable cause, suspects to be guilty of the offence.These are enormous powers which have not been required by anyone in our history since Oliver Cromwell. While it is true that under a benevolent Labour Government the use of these powers in reserve might be condoned or tolerated, I certainly should not willingly entrust them to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Indeed, I should sooner entrust a delinquent child with a loaded gun than these emergency regulations to the Government.
Despite the glib statement by the right hon. Gentleman that these powers are held in reserve and are not likely to be used, I ask him to consider the present mood of the public, to which his hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) referred. The hon. Gentleman quoted from the Evening Standard. Perhaps I may do the same. The lead letter in the Evening Standard this evening, written by a lady whose name I will not give because I do not believe she deserves advertisement, says:Isn't it time somebody called their bluff"—she was referring to the dockers—and released us from their tyranny? We've got a State of Emergency.She was anticipating the debate tonight.Why not use it now and give them"—the dockers—24 hours to unload these ships, or else!That is the mood which has been generated by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite; that is the context in which we are discussing these emergency regulations; that is the deteriorating climate in which the Government will acquire these enormous powers.
In cerain situations, in the interests of the nation as a whole, there may be 1610 critical moments when the Government require certain of the powers included in these regulations. However, the Government must consider whether the application of any of those powers, in the context of the attitude which has been created among trade unionists generally, will lead to an even worse situation.
One of my hon. Friends earlier spoke about good and bad laws. Certainly when we talk about good or bad laws we are applying valued judgments which none of us would tend to apply when it came to observing or rejecting the law. However, there are moments when a certain section of the public feels so disadvantaged and unjustly done by that it is hard for those people to refrain from acting in a way which we might deplore in terms of the law but can understand when it comes to their particular and human rights.
Although the Government may acquire the right of repression by these emergency laws, unless they seek to tackle the underlying and fundamental reason for the problem we face at the docks, which finds its echoes among trade unionists throughout the country, then indeed they will find that, even if the dock strike is settled, there will be further repercussions, further strikes, and further occasions for them to introduce emergency regulations in what I have already described as the deteriorating industrial situation in this country.
When this Government came to power the rigid idealogical principle introduced by the Prime Minister was that of confrontation. That theory of confrontation has lain at the roots of every major strike in this country since those days, including the docks strike today. The doctrine of confrontation was that the workers and the trade unionists must be taken on. That attitude has percolated downwards so that, although the Government have now had a certain change of heart, throughout industry there are managements which remain attached to the idea that somehow or other they can deal with the trade unions only by using a mailed fist.
We have been concentrating on the strike at the docks, but I think we ought to take note that all over the country many strikes are taking place. Some of them have been going on for much 1611 longer than the docks strike. They are strikes with great social and economic consequences, such as the one at the Jaguar works at Coventry where the men have been on strike for six weeks. The men there have been vilified on the ground that, somehow or other, they have prevented a major British product from being manufactured and sold. I must say in parenthesis that I regard it as extraordinary when workers are vilified for withholding their labour on products which they themselves have made when they are fundamentally the people who are responsible for creating a first-class car like the Jaguar. These men have been out on strike, not because they have been bloody-minded, as some papers have suggested, nor simply for the sake of striking. They are out on strike because they have definite grievances which they have presented and which have been rejected by management.
The Prime Minister has now rightly indicated that he wants to have tripartite discussions between the Government, the trade unions and management. That is a proper method of proceeding which he should have undertaken two years ago. I believe that it is right to have that colloquy between the interests involved to try to obtain some kind of harmony between all those concerned. Unfortunately, the new attitude has not yet reached those ranks of management where it is most applicable and where it could be used; for example, in the Jaguar strike.
While believing that, on the whole, Members of Parliament should not seek to intervene in industrial disputes, I have in the past, and, perhaps I can say, with some success, tried to bring together the parties concerned in the dispute. I must record tonight that Lord Stokes not only did not discuss the matter with me, despite my application to him to discuss it, but he asked some intermediary to talk to me. The fact is that instead of taking the opportunity of harmonising those who were in conflict he has allowed this ruinous strike to continue.
I make mention of that because I believe that there are structural problems in Britain today which, even when this docks strike is ended, will produce almost identical results. One has only to look at the machine tool industry, where, 1612 because of the apprehension that the same problems as the docks now have with containerisation might recur in some way, there has been a reluctance on the part of the industry to invest. The result is that a firm like Herbert-Ingersoll, making one of the most advanced ranges of machine tools in the world, is going into the hands of a receiver, simply because management has been unable to make the necessary investment because of the belief that if it were to do so it would have redundancy problems which could not be settled. One of the most advanced firms in the world is falling into the hands of a receiver, and the economy as a whole, instead of benefiting from this advanced technology, has been forced to lag behind while our German, Italian and French competitors have been able to go ahead.
The problem of containerisation is, in a sense, a metaphor of all the problems of industry in the second industrial revolution. It is an illustration of the way in which, unless there can be some harmonisation of the interests of the trade unions, the employers and Government, the crisis we are facing tonight will recur and recur.
It is no use for either side to turn to violence. We have seen how people have sought to defy the law, somehow in the hope that by their physical rejection of it they may achieve their aim. We all know that the physical rejection of law is not merely an act of violence but a form of revolution. Once one enters into that phase of revolution, one gets counter-revolution. Once one enters the phase of violence, there is counter-violence. Once one enters the phase of anarchy, one gets Fascism. All these things we have avoided throughout our history by means of a consensus, that consensus which hon. Members on both sides of the House have been talking about and without which it is impossible for Britain to survive.
We are now living through a most critical time. The infection of violence spreads very rapidly, and the infection of strong measures tends to produce counter-measures.
§ Mr. Sidney Bidwell (Southall)
How does my hon. Friend justify his remark that defiance of law, by itself, is a form of violence? If it is a passive defiance of law, where does the violence come from?
§ Mr. Edelman
In that case, perhaps my hon. Friend will read what I have said. He will then be able to absorb what I have tried to say.
Simply philosophically, and rightly or wrongly, once the law is rejected one has in effect a condition of revolution. I do not say that all revolutions are wrong. On the contrary, I can well imagine cases, as in Hitler's Germany, in which revolution would have been well justified. But in a parliamentary democracy such as ours, we should seek to achieve a maximum consensus so that all interests of the country can live in harmony and work together for a common aim. That is what I believe in and what I want to see.
This is a critical debate. An emergency powers order should not go through on the nod. I could have wished that many more hon. Members had been present to participate in the debate and affirm their concern.
I urge the Government to try to re-establish the consensus of the nation, and not to use the tyranny of an ideological minority to try to crush their fellow citizens. I am speaking now of the Industrial Relations Act, which should never have been introduced. The obduracy of the Prime Minister is certainly the expression of a blinkered mind. Let him return to Parliament in October, or even before, with a firm decision to repeal the Industrial Relations Act, perhaps to find a new formula based on consent. That would be the first step to stopping a civil war of the spirit which has already broken out in England.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I represent a town in the middle of the country, far removed from the docks but inhabited by ordinary people of this country. It is those people I wish to represent in my short speech. No hon. Member can be pleased that we are once again having to discuss emergency regulations in a national crisis. I shall try to make as constructive a speech as I possibly can, having been in industry or closely associated with it since the war 1614 and believing, as I do, that the ordinary working man—that includes the docker in England today—is normally a perfectly sound, decent and patriotic citizen.
I certainly do not believe that the class war any longer exists in Britain. But I fear that at present some men are being misled and that they do not understand the Government's policy.
Most people understand the problems and difficulties of the docks and the dock workers and have much sympathy with the dockers' fears and worries about the future. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Government, the employers and the unions to overcome this important but, in terms of numbers, fairly small problem. That is what the Jones-Aldington Report can do. We all know that the problem is one primarily of technological change and that the dockers would be beating their heads against a wall unless they realised that the old-style docker and old-style dock work have gone for ever. That is why I believe that every consideration must be given to the dockers.
I believe that the Jones-Aldington Report is generous. I also believe—I speak now for many people in the centre of the country away from the ports—that the dockers must not presume too much on the public sympathy, must not threaten too much whole industries such as we heard about in a most moving speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) and must not try to force whole industries into ruin. Looked at from that point of view this strike is absurd, as the hon. Member for Coventry North (Mr. Edelman) said. I have recently come from Luxembourg which has not had a strike for 25 years and whose people cannot understand what is happening here.
One element which worries me is subversion. We all know that it exists and is increasing. It is something for which the Government, as the trustees for the nation, have responsibility and something about which every good trade unionist should worry greatly. We know that there are a number of men occupying leading positions, or sometimes occupying positions behind the leading figures, whose interests are not the same as those of the vast bulk of the people. I only wish that the Government could act in a dawn 1615 swoop, arrest them all, shut them up and put them away out of trouble, but I know that is difficult. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but they have not seen the "tape" which I have just been handed.
There is, unfortunately, in this peace-loving country a sustained growth of violence. I have just heard that in a small port in Lincolnshire seven policemen have been injured by pickets and a number of arrests have had to be made. This cannot be peaceful picketing. It is deplorable in what is, I understand, an official strike. I hope that we shall hear from hon. Members on the Opposition side a condemnation of this sort of violence, which does immense harm to the nation. I saw it recently in the notorious Saltley coke depot disturbances during the miners' strike. The country will expect to hear from the Government that the emergency powers will permit steps to be taken to stop illegal picketing and to stop the use of force in these confrontations.
Having spoken, perhaps painfully, on the issues of extremism, subversion and violence, I now turn to the unity of the nation in these troubles. I believe in the decency of the ordinary, law-abiding working man and I believe that the country wants him to have the best possible deal in a society which we hope will grow more prosperous. I believe that most working men want regular work and wish to give their wives and families a higher standard of living. That is a most laudable ambition and something which the Conservative Party supports.
In times of danger and inflation and when there is a docks strike the people look to the Government and to us for a lead, for who but the Government can protect the weak either against speculators and profiteers or against the bullying pickets? I believe that the Government must get closer to the ordinary people to tell them the facts in simple terms and to tell us all in this emergency, and in rather more detail than they have done so far, where our duty lies.
The country is crying out for leadership, not only from the Government but from every walk of life, including industry and the trade unions. It is because I believe that we are still a great nation 1616 and that the vast majority of our people are as sound as ever they were that I believe, given proper leadership, there is nothing we cannot do. I believe this also applies to industry where there is a great responsibility on the owners, the managers and the employers. Sometimes the cult of the professional manager and the whiz kid, and the emergence of the technocrat in industry, has overlaid vastly more important human qualities of leadership, example and compassion.
At the weekend, when I was thinking over these problems and the state of the country, I read some words written by Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, to this House in 1660 when Parliament met again after all the troubles and turmoil of the civil war. The Government of the day wished to exercise great vengeance against those who had opposed the King-Clarendon said:The King is a suitor to you … that you will join with him in restoring the whole nation to its primitive temper and integrity, its old good manners, its old good humour, and its old good nature; good nature, a virtue so peculiar to you … that it can be translated into no other language and hardly practised by any other people.I believe we will all do well to remember those words in this important debate.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
May I good naturedly say to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes) that he shows a lack of knowledge about the docks, the dock worker and port installations in general. I will not follow the line he has introduced, but I hope that the Government will not listen to some of the advice he gave when he indicated that the dock area was full of subversion. This is totally untrue.
On the dock estate there are many people who cover many facets of our life and take in many varying views, but they are British and they are workpeople and they are not what the hon. Member suggests. I take objection because I have an interest to declare. I am one of them—or I was before I came to the House—and I know most of them. I do not agree with all of them, and they do not agree with me, but they would never impute motives to me which they themselves would not accept.
§ Mr. Stokes
The hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood the whole purport of my speech. I did not suggest that the dock workers individually were bad people. I said the contrary, but I pointed out that they were, unfortunately, sometimes misled and I pointed out that there is subversion.
§ Mr. Dunn
I had better not follow that line. I shall stay with the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) who gave the House some advice. It is my purpose to tell the House what is happening in the docks, starting with Merseyside.
There is hostility now building up to a degree which is causing anxiety to those of us who know the docks industry. What has happened over the voluntary working of ships and the movement of essential cargoes in relation to the response of the Supplementary Benefits Commission and its use of paragraph 27 of Schedule 2 to the 1966 Act? The commission's decision is stopping the dock worker from performing the service which he has always willingly given. If the hon. Member for Oswestry is right when he says that within three or four days there will be the danger of shortage of animal feeding stuffs—the Minister seemed to indicate that that was right and that there would be anxiety in two or three days—one can only say that the Government are allowing matters to develop in such a way as to aggravate the situation unnecessarily.
The denial of supplementary benefit to the dependants of the docker in the circumstances which prevailed on Merseyside, Glasgow and Aberdeen is absolutely ridiculous. This is the first time it has happened. I remind the House of the terms of paragraph 27:If a person has deprived himself of any resources for the purpose of securing benefit or increasing the amount thereof those resources may be taken into account as if they were still his".The words are that they "may be" taken into account. The Supplementary Benefits Commission is now saying that they shall be taken into account. Indeed, it is now going even further and warning those involved in this industrial dispute that the procedure under the 1971 Act for the recovery of benefits will be used to the last degree.
1618 The Government should consider carefully what they are doing in relation to the state of affairs now precipitated by the unwarranted action and interpretation of the law by those who apply the supplementary benefit rules. The caution or reluctance which the Government have felt in bringing emergency powers into operation to move products from the dockside or from ships will have to go if certain things happen, and they will have to bring in troops. If they are compelled to do that, what will happen?
Merseyside is quite close to another island in which there is turmoil and disturbance. Up to now, thank God, there have been no significant consequential effects in my area and the districts surrounding Merseyside, but if the troops come in there will be real difficulty. It will not be just a matter of the emergency movement of essential foodstuffs and supplies. Things will take on a much broader base involving other industries on Merseyside. I warn the Government—the Solicitor-General knows what happens on Merseyside—that there is a loyalty to dock workers and an awareness and appreciation of the indignities imposed upon them in yesteryear such that my community, my people, are not prepared to see them beaten into the ground.
For the first time, what the dock worker is fighting for is the right to work. He is not asking for more money. He is telling the Government and the community at large "We have been reduced in total numbers from 80,000 to about 40,000, and our future is still bleak." We can go back over all the reports—nicely printed reports with recommendations that were carefully discussed and acknowledged. There were the Bristow Report, Devlin stage I, interim Devlin and Devlin stage II. At the end of the day the dock workers were going out of the gate in large numbers, with no prospects of future employment.
The docker is fighting for the right to work for his family. In doing so he will fight the Supplementary Benefits Commission and the Conservative Government if they dare to apply the full provisions of the 1971 Act. If in the 15 days after the return to work notices are issued for attachment of wages through the employer, there will be further problems.
1619 I want the strike over. I wish to God it would end tomorrow because many people, many of my friends are suffering deprivation because of it. [Interruption.]—The hon. Gentleman shows a lack of knowledge. If the Home Secretary uses the emergency powers unwisely, if he brings troops into Merseyside, if he does not deal with the situation that has arisen because of the clarification by the commission about the problems of voluntary working, there will be trouble.
I should like to offer one solution which has been accepted on Merseyside. I got in touch with the chairman of the Port Emergency Committee, who is also general manager of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. When I explained to him what had happened to the dockers, he was horrified. I said that there was an obligation of honour upon the employers that they should receive no advantage either way if the work was done. It is up to the employers to volunteer to make a donation to a charity nominated by the dockers, and then the dockers will volunteer to work and there will be no question of wages. The Liverpool employers accepted that immediately and say that they will implement it. The chairman of the Port Emergency Committee was grateful for the common sense with which the suggestion was made. The Government should get cracking in a similar way in Aberdeen, Glasgow and every other port.
It might be sensible to start talking about a national code for all docks when they are involved in an industrial dispute, one that can be implemented nationally, with the help of a representative of the Transport and General Workers' Union—not necessarily Jack Jones when he is busy with other things. But for goodness' sake let us co-ordinate the services of Government. Do not let one arm be asking for caution and compassion and the other dealing with conflict and confrontation. That is what has been happening.
If the Government want the dock worker to go back, they must time what they tell him. He must not be told all the bad news. That is what has been happening. There is some good news. The Jones-Aldington Report can be used as the basis of agreement if the port employers' interests in container 1620 inland ports are established. "Inland ports" was the language of 1966, but now they become container bases. If the Government really want a solution, they must get to the people who have investments in land close to dock estates, investments in the cities served by docks. They must make an agreement that within a certain radius any container work will be that of the registered dock worker. The dock worker will never ask for the work that is coming direct from the manufacturer. He has never done so. But he would be a fool if he sat down in the present situation and let container bases flower outside the dock and take the bread from his own mouth and that of his children. That has been happening. There has been evidence of it recently, published in a Sunday newspaper. There is much more evidence. There are many more allegations yet to be proved.
If the Supplementary Benefits Commission continues on the path which it has started, incurring so much hostility, there will be no end to the dispute. At the same time, I tender my apologies to the Home Secretary. I had intended to speak to him personally but when I got here I found him encamped on the Front Bench. I had also intended to speak to other people. I gave notice to the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, because he went on the "World at One" and quite rightly said that the dockers must voluntarily work without wages. But he forgot to add that there was also an obligation of honour upon those for whom the work was being done, just as that obligation obtained on previous occasions.
This is the first time these social security regulations have been interpreted with such rigidity, and it should not have happened. It is not a question of whether the Commission has a right to do it. Try to explain that to the Liverpool dockers and they will laugh one out of court.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for interrupting, but I do so to establish more clearly one fact underlying what he is saying. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) referred to this same pattern of work during the docks dispute of 1970 in a debate at that time. I understand that 1621 the practice of dockers working essential cargoes for no pay other than that paid by the employers through them to charity has a precedent, and a respectable precedent. What I am not quite clear about is whether the hon. Gentleman is saying that in these circumstances on previous occasions a claim has been made by the dockers on the Supplementary Benefits Commission of the kind now in question and has been met, or whether he is saying that it is only on this occasion, perhaps because the strike has gone on for rather longer, that such a claim has been made, with the answer of which he has complained—and I do not use the word pejoratively. Does this represent a change of decision and position on the part of the Supplementary Benefits Commission as compared with past experience?
§ Mr. Dunn
I am trying to be helpful. This is a new interpretation of an old practice whereby wages which would normally have been earned have been donated to charity. Supplementary benefit has always been available on previous occasions to the families of the dockers who did this. This is the first time that it has not happened. On previous occasions, everyone has always been so pleased that essential cargoes were being moved that the dockers were never asked these questions.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
During the miners' strike, thousands of miners did voluntary work getting coal to hospitals, old-age pensioners and so on. In that case the Supplementary Benefits Commission wisely used the old interpretation. There was not the rigid interpretation being made now. If there had been, there would have been a lot more trouble during the miners' strike, just as we are now having in the dock strike.
§ Mr. Dunn
My hon. Friend reinforces the argument that if one wants essential services to continue then one must turn a blind eye—although I do not think that a blind eye is necessary because this is a new interpretation. Those I have spoken to at local and national level and even the Chairman of the Commission have all tried to be as helpful as possible, but they insisted that this was the interpretation which they had to apply 1622 But the word is "may" and not "shall". The 1966 Act said "may", although the 1971 Act said "shall". This matter must be looked at by the Government.
If it is said that there will be some reduction in supplementary benefits or that the supplementary benefits will not be easily available in the first 15 days, that will not help the men to go back to work. These men are fighting for the right to work, for a dignity which they have created from what was catastrophe in the docks. Those who know the industry know how undignified it once was. The Government must realise that these men will not surrender lightly.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
The hon. Gentleman refers to the dock workers, and I am sure many hon. Members on this side would agree with some, if not all, of the points he is making. Would he agree that other workers have been faced with a similar situation; for example, the textile workers? Tens of thousands of textile workers have been forced to leave their trade through redundancies and other circumstances. Did these people strike? Did they feel that to hold the nation to ransom—I know that is an emotive phrase—was the way to remedy the situation? No. They realised that by taking the action which the dockers are taking they would be stabbing themselves in the back, and they felt it was better to seek a remedy in a constructive and responsible fashion without putting other workers out of a job. Will the hon. Gentleman deal with that before he sits down?
§ Mr. Dunn
If I did I would inflame a situation which needs no aggravation. I do not wish to be impertinent or discourteous but I do not wish to follow that line because a political controversy would not help my people. I am sorry that it did not help the hon. Gentleman's consistuents. The Government must co-ordinate all facets of the services. The Home Secretary is responsible for applying the emergency regulations, and I ask him to do this in a way which will not upset the balance and good nature of the working of essential services. There is even a possibility of these services being extended, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to do his utmost in that direction.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
I am sure that in our heart of hearts we all knew that this strike would happen, no matter which Government were in power or what legislation had been brought to the Statute Book. It has been boiling up for many years. I know that in my constituency this industrial revolution of containerisation has created fears which these men are only too quick to show. There has been a tremendous rundown in the labour force required to operate a modern port.
In the days of the large passenger ships 200 or 300 dock workers could look forward to several days' work in turning round one of these ships and equipping her with all the necessary supplies and stores. Now 50,000-ton container ships come in and 20 or 30 men can turn them around in 36 hours. The fear has been there for the last decade, and it has now come out, like a boil. It has burst, and we, the nation, are suffering.
I agree that the dockers have a problem, and it is only too obvious to say that we should defend their right to voice their opinions and their fears. They must not, and cannot, carry their strike to the ultimate. This debate has a very small focal point. We are standing here for the nation. It is a nation that cannot sit still while it is being forced to complete standstill. The nation demands a firmness from its Members of Parliament and from the Government. There is no profit in the Governing bringing in emergency powers and then sitting back and letting the standstill continue.
We must express our views, and the view of this side of the House is plain: the Jones-Aldington Report was good. There may have been imponderables which no docker would trust the employer to tie up, but I am firmly convinced that Mr. Jones and Lord Aldington had found a solution. The narrowness of the vote— 38 to 28, with 18 abstentions—must have proved that the report was not completely unacceptable. It would be very gratifying if tomorrow agreement could be reached so that in a short time the docks were back to normal and all the essential cargoes were cleared.
Perhaps in Southampton, where we have had full employment in the docks, 1624 the position has not been so acute. The big problem is the transfer of labour. Each year in Southampton 600 to 700 temporary dockers work in handling the citrus fruit. The season for this starts in March and generally ends at the end of July. In view of the amount of labour we need, the registration of dockers might well be increased. But it is impossible for dockers from, say, London or Hull to move freely about the country. The housing problem, for example, can do nothing but exacerbate the situation.
I have had many telephone calls from dockers who wished to remain anonymous and from others who gave their name but did not want it repeated. They have told me about the feeling which existed at the union meeting in Southampton which took place the day after the refusal to accept the Jones-Aldington Report. There is a great deal of discontent among the workers. Dockland is like a happy family. I say that with respect. The dockers protect each other. If a man is sick or unable to a hard job, his fellow workers will protect him. I estimate that there are 50 dockers in Southampton disabled as a result of their work over many years who would be extremely happy and willing to receive the proposed redundancy payments, which I, and I am sure most of us here, regard as quite handsome. But that is by the way. Mr. Jones, Lord Aldington and the dockers' delegates will sort out that matter between them.
My great concern relates to some of the islands which rely on us. I think mainly of Guernsey and perhaps Jersey. Tomatoes are having to be airlifted from Guernsey. Only 300 tons have been airlifted since last Friday. Yesterday's estimate was that 2,670 tons of tomatoes had had to be dumped in the gravel pits of Guernsey. Guernsey's economy is taking a hammer-like blow. It is estimated that it will take almost five years for it to recover from what has happened this year.
The waste is appalling. In the Isle of Wight there are three banana boats containing 40 million rotting bananas. In the cargo sheds in the Southampton Western Docks there are 50,000 cases of rotting grapefruit, lemons and oranges. The medical office of health has said that 1625 the flies are proving to be a great nuisance.
Can we possibly allow this to go on? I think that the Southampton dockers are only too willing to move emergency supplies. We trade with the West Indies which is not a prosperous nation or one that can afford to lose cargoes of bananas. Boats are going back to the West Indies trailing miles of cartons of bananas on the high seas which have been unloaded by the ships' crews.
On the other hand, there is the bright spot that the dockers have not picketed passenger ships and the office staff are unloading and loading them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) mentioned the crisis in animal feed, which is looming large. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has said that we have three or four days' supply. But the animal feed deadline is creeping closer, particularly for the pig and poultry producers. The National Farmers' Union poultry officer for the South has said that the producers who are mixing their own feed are finding it increasingly difficult to get supplies of maize and soya now that all the ports are closed. The Government might have a dialogue with the dockers urging them to move this protein food. The strike has pushed up the price of maize and soya by about £8 a ton. Shortages cause inflation. Prices must escalate. Which is more important, 12 rhinos or millions of farm animals? In the end it is not the Government but the people who pay the piper.
I am glad that the dialogue is at a level known as a low profile. I hope that troops will not be needed and that the dockers will give full co-operation. They must realise the hardship they are causing to the nation, to their own families and to the family of every worker who depends on the docks for a livelihood.
I venture to say that we are not far off a settlement. I should like the message to go out from the House that, with a low profile from here and with sound common sense, the Jones-Aldington Committee will be able to agree with the delegates and end the strike before the week is up.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I raised earlier with the Home Secretary the question of a report on the present state of negotiations concerning the Jones-Aldington Committee. I believe that the House is entitled to have an interim report this evening, or even tomorrow. Many of the consequences which have been eloquently spelt out by Conservative Members—and none better than by the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen)—arise because of the docks strike, which has arisen because of the difficult industrial situation and the feeling among dockers of concern for their own security.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) from his knowledge of the Liverpool dock situation, emphasised the fear of unemployment and of what happens with a changing job situation, a fear which is now accelerating in our society.
I should like to say to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that this situation has happened in the past when cotton workers have been unhappy about their jobs going by the board. The dockers now face the same situation in their industry. Perhaps the reduction in the textile industry occurred against a background of full employment. The change which is taking place in the docks, and which has been accelerated, is taking place against the background of a large measure of unemployment which has hardened at around the 900,000 mark. In the present industrial situation, what is being said to the dockers is "Your industry has changed, rationalisation is taking place and, therefore, you must accept the inevitable."
I have in my constituency a number of dockers who work in the Manchester docks, and it must be remembered that in terms of turnover Manchester is the fourth largest port in the country. The Manchester dock labour force has diminished by over 50 per cent. and this trend has occurred on a national scale in recent years. The fear among the dockers is reflected in their present anger and anguish.
I spoke to some of the London dockers who came to the House of Commons the other night to listen to the debate on the industrial relations situation. They 1627 said "We have had all these changes in recent years, many committees have considered the situation and there have been eight or nine attempts to try to protect our jobs." They then said "This is possibly our last throw and we are going to make a stand."
We must remember that in considering the vote which led to the rejection among dockers of the Jones-Aldington Report—a report that went a long way to meeting problems but did not resolve them—the abstentions in the main related to the unregistered ports.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Message communicating to this House that Her Majesty deems it proper by Proclamation, made in pursuance of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, as amended by the Emergency Powers Act, 1964, and dated 3rd August, 1972, to declare that a state of emergency exists.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.