§ Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,directives from the National Coal Board in Scotland, supported by Ministers, which have led to the arbitrary dismissal of 185 miners.The matter is specific, because, on the pretext of misconduct, these miners—many in my constituency—have been dismissed and up to 200 more may be dismissed without adequate explanation or proper justification, wholly against previous practice in the coal industry and stated procedures in the rest of the country.
The matter is important because, contrary to what the Prime Minister told us today, some of the miners who have been dismissed in Scotland have been admonished and fined no more than £10 for taking coal and no more than £50 for the most trivial breach of the peace offences committed far from Coal Board premises and involving no violence against fellow miners. Although those miners have hitherto had an impeccable record in the eyes of the law, the National Coal Board in Scotland, with the public support of the Secretary of State for Scotland, has refused even to consider a review of such cases. It is a Scottish policy which, on the admission of the coal board director, may include sackings by the coal board even before summonses by the court, coal board dismissals even when there have been court acquittals and coal board checks and surveillance of miners not at their work place but at home in their villages and towns.
The dismissals are arbitrary because the coal board in Scotland has offered us no criteria for what constitutes a sackable offence; anomalous because miners have been punished twice for the same crime, and authoritarian because the diktat of one man, the NCB director in Scotland, determines whether a man will have his job or lose it. The NCB has found in some trivial offences a pretext for the selective dismissal of active trade unionists.
The matter is important because there are now two types of law— a criminal law, and now a coal board law; magistrates' justice, and now MacGregor's justice; a coal board blacklist of people in 1985 after a coal board hit list of pits in 1984. Throughout the past year, we have had industrial relations not by negotiation but by starvation. We now have management not by conciliation but by victimization. Yet, in the midst of such victimisation, this week the Prime Minister has the effrontery to talk of reconciliation. Miners in my constituency would feel safer with Viscount Whitelaw wielding his gun than with the Prime Minister wielding her olive branch.
The matter requires urgent consideration because today the Scottish coal board is shamefully impeding a settlement of the coal dispute, misleading the public over the reasons for these selective dismissals, abusing any common-sense view of natural justice and permanently injuring any efforts at the reconciliation that the coal board says it wants to achieve.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the 781 House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,directives from the National Coal Board in Scotland, supported by Ministers, which have led to the arbitrary dismissal of 185 miners.I understand the concern expressed by the hon. Gentleman, but I have to give him the same answer which I gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). I do not consider the matter that he has raised to be appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.