§ Mr. Eadie
On a point of order. You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that, during Question Time, one of my hon. Friends announced that a miner had been killed on picket duty. We were charged with showing a certain amount of emotion on hearing that news, but I think that the House will understand why there is no need to apologise for that. I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Before we leave for our constituencies this weekend, would it be possible for a Minister to make a statement describing what happened and telling us why a situation like this should arise?
Second, it has been drawn to our attention that pickets have been arrested and held in custody overnight without opportunity of bail. Some of them have been handcuffed. Might this not be related to the situation—
§ Mr. Eadie
When people are killed, the hon. Member cannot understand the emotion aroused.
I hope that a Minister will give an explanation so that, when we go to our constituencies, we will know the facts, since the miners' representatives always try to take a responsible attitude to such depressing events.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have already had notice from an hon. Member of his wish to ask a Private Notice Question tomorrow on 677 this matter. I will of course decide on that and take into account all the factors in the situation.
§ Mr. Swain
Further to that point of order. May I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that in 1932 there was a tragic explosion at the Bentley Colliery and that on the very same day a statement was made in the House by the responsible Minister about the occurrence? He did not go into how and why it happened. He simply expressed the sympathy of the House and said that a public inquiry would be held.
I rise on a point of order to seek your guidance, Sir. Should not the Government follow that 1932 precedent in view of the fact that today's tragedy is equal to that of 1932? [Interruption.] I agree that the circumstances are different, but this man was undertaking legal picketing in the strict sense of the word. In my constituency during the last week 13 men have been arrested, handcuffed and put in line—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order".] I am addressing you, Mr. Speaker, and not the ignorant Members on the Government benches.
I am speaking as a compassionate hon. Member for the Opposition and a representative of the miners' group. I should have thought that even the ignorant element on the benches opposite would be prepared to listen to me on this occasion—[Interruption.] This is no laughing matter. We are talking about a man's life. A man is dead and he leaves behind six children. This could be the start of another Ulster in the Yorkshire coalfield.
I warn the Government here and now that if there is not an immediate statement from the responsible Minister, I shall go back to my constituency tonight and advocate violence [HON. MEMBERS: "Order".] A man has lost his life today in tragic circumstances—[Interruption.] I am seeking your guidance, Mr. Speaker—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I appreciate the strong feelings that are held on this matter. I have indicated that I have had notice from an hon. Member that he wishes to ask a Private Notice Question about this matter tomorrow at 11 o'clock. It would not be in accordance with precedent if I were now to announce 678 my decision on that, but I assure the hon. Member that I shall take careful account of what has been said.
§ Dr. Marshall
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the person concerned in this incident was a resident of my constituency, may I be permitted immediately to express profound shock and sorrow at what has happened and sympathy for the widow and six children? May I underline—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I quite understand the hon. Member's feelings, but the time to make such comments will be tomorrow, if I allow the Private Notice Question to be asked. Mr. Roy Jenkins. Business Question.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Further to the point of order that has been raised with you, Mr. Speaker, and with very great respect, may I remind you that it is not impossible for an hon. Member to give notice of a Private Notice Question if need be weeks ahead? In this case the hon. Member gave you notice that he wished to raise this matter and has thereby pre-empted any other hon. Member's opportunity to raise what is an urgent matter immediately.
I gave you notice shortly after 2.30 p.m. that I wished to raise this matter, and it was not until the 2.30 news that this information came out. I therefore know personally that no hon. Member could have given you notice of his desire to ask a Private Notice Question before I gave you such notice—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh over this, but it is not a laughing matter.
I heard of this on the 2.30 news. I came straight to the House and spoke to you in the Chair. I said that I wanted to raise the issue today and not tomorrow. Tomorrow may be too late. The miners are extremely upset and worried over this. There could be ructions in the country tonight—[Interruption.]—and it is not good enough to allow this matter to stand over until tomorrow, because it should and could be discussed today.
The subject which we are to discuss later is betting and gambling. Is that more important than the loss of a miner's 679 life? I therefore urge you to consider allowing this matter to be raised today rather than tomorrow.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I am on a point of order. Before asking the Business Question, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, whether you had noticed that the Secretary of State for Employment was in his place? I thought he looked as if he might be prepared to make a statement. It might help if he were able to say something on this subject.
§ Mr. Tapsell
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House at Question Time that he was probably better informed on this tragic incident than any other right hon. or hon. Member, might it not be in the national interest if he now made a brief statement on the subject?
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. As those who were present will recall, when the news of this tragedy was mentioned at Question Time by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) I immediately expressed the sympathy of the whole House. The first news I had of it was from that hon. Member and I have been trying to obtain information about the incident since then.
The information I have been able to obtain so far is very scanty. The news appeared on the tape at 2.50 p.m. I did not have an opportunity to hear the 2.30 news, which apparently the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) heard. All I know so far is that the accident happened at the Keadby Power Station near Scunthorpe and that the name of the miner who has been so tragically killed was Mr. Fred Matthews, who was one of about 50 members of the union from Bentley who were on 24-hour picket duty at this power station.
680 As to the nature of the accident, all I know at present is that he was run over by an articulated lorry. I have not so far been able to discover any further information. I have, therefore, given the House all the information that is at present available to me.
§ Mr. Sillars
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have no wish to exacerbate an already very difficult situation, but I, too, have a very large number of constituents who are miners and who are on continuous picket duty. May I take this opportunity to point out that an already difficult situation has been made more difficult by this tragic accident? [Interruption.] I am raising this point of order—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—because I do not want to see any further disorder in any of the streets of Britain.
Would it not be desirable for you, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the House, to request the Secretary of State for Employment to come to the House at, say, 7.30 p.m. to make a statement on this subject and, more important, to make a statement on the miners' strike—[Interruption.]—given that at three o'clock this afternoon the Chairman of the National Coal Board said, "It is necessary for quick intervention by a third party to help end this dispute." There can be only one third party, and that is the Government.
§ Mr. Thorpe
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether, through you, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the House might be able to assist. It is clear that the House would like to receive a statement on this matter at the earliest possible opportunity and at the same time would like to afford the responsible Minister—[Interruption.]—Hon. Gentlemen opposite should accept that this is a very serious matter—sufficient opportunity to gain the necessary information.
In my respectful submission, there are precedents for Ministers making such statements. I think most recently of the statement on a very different matter, relating to gold, when at a very late hour the Minister intervened to make a statement. There are procedural ways—for example, an application can be made to the hon. Member who has the Adjournment Debate—which would enable such 681 a statement to be made. It would he helpful if the Leader of the House would indicate that, within the rules of order, it would be his intention that such a statement should be made at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think we must conclude this discussion. What the right hon. Member has said will be noted. I have given a hint of what my likely course of action will be tomorrow, by which time there should have been adequate time for the matter to have been investigated. Mr. Roy Jenkins—Business Question.
§ Mr. Skinner
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not my wish to try to inflame the situation. I listened very intently to what the Secretary of State for Employment said. It seemed to me that he read out most of the contents of what appeared on the tape, which I read a short time ago. I hope there was nothing he is trying to hide, inasmuch as there were two statements on that tape which the Minister has not disclosed, namely, one—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You yourself have pointed out that a Private Notice Question may be answered tomorrow. The Leader of the Liberal Party has made a suggestion that we might have a statement later tonight. As he has made a suggestion, may I make a suggestion, which I think would be in order? It is that, with your approval, the Government, if they are so minded, could move the Adjournment of the House and scrap today's business, which no one particularly wants. Betting, gambling and gaming are not the most important things. The Government could show that they are really seized of this situation and ask permission to move the Adjournment of the House so that we could have a debate on the whole subject of what may be a very serious situation, and we could have that debate tonight, not tomorrow.