§ Mr. Dodsworth
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the withdrawal of ambulance services in Hertfordshire.The matter is specific in that an instruction has been issued to members of COHSE and NUPE in Hertfordshire to cease operations of all emergency and essential services from midnight, Tuesday 20 February. This instruction follows a meeting of shop stewards held in Birmingham last week who have called for a national strike of ambulance men commencing at Tuesday midnight.
The latest information I have from the headquarters of the ambulance service in Hertfordshire is that this strike is likely to be effective. This action will affect a number of road links with Greater London, carrying the heaviest traffic loads in the county, all passing through the county of Hertfordshire—the Ml, M10, AIM, A6 and A5. All these roads require urgent casualty services.
The number of journeys per day in the county of Hertfordshire is over 2½ million. The number of accidents in the 48 hours from midnight Friday to midnight Sunday was 16. Over the last weekend there have been 119 other emergency calls on the 999 system, giving a total of 135 emergency ambulance calls in that 48-hour period. The matter is, therefore, both national and specific.
It is important in that 600,000 citizens will be deprived of ambulance services, adding to the difficulties which have already flowed from some of the disruptive action taken over the past few weeks. The needs of maternity cases and intensive care emergencies will be prejudiced in those circumstances.
The behaviour of members of COHSE and NUPE in Hertfordshire has in many respects exceeded any voluntary code of conduct and action, but I think that this proposed action would prejudice their excellent behaviour. Their conduct until now has been admirable. This proposed action would violate all the agreements and, in particular, vitiates the guidance in 41 paragraph 6 of the code of conduct, which refers to the health and safety of members of the community. The 24-hour withdrawal of emergency ambulance services breaks psychological barriers.
In those circumstances, it is an important matter and the union members are extremely concerned that the Government's attitude has been one of complacency which has not taken proper account of their case and their needs. Although arrangements may well be discussed today, and indeed tomorrow for alternative services through volunteers and others, that does not alter the fact that this proposed action will cause danger to people on the roads and in their homes.
I think that this is an urgent matter because the strike is to be called at midnight tomorrow. From that time there will be no ambulance services at all. It is uncertain what will follow after then. It will not be possible to call off the strike in those circumstances. The urgent attention of the Government and Ministers is required to prevent what I believe is merciless action.
The leaders of the General and Municipal Workers' Union, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the National Union of Public Employees and the Confederation of Health Service Employees have all said that this action can only be detrimental to the interests of their members. It may be detrimental to their interests, but, more urgently, the situation will be desperate for the sick and injured of our nation on that day.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Dodsworth) gave me notice before 12 o'clock this morning that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the withdrawal of ambulance services in Hertfordshire.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reason for my decision.
I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman had to say, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within 42 the provisions of the Standing Order and therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.