HL Deb 19 January 1971 vol 314 cc309-13

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to inform your Lordships of the arrangements that have been made in the case of a possible strike in the Post Office. The strike would, of course, prevent the transmission through the mail of all Parliamentary matter, both outward from the House and inward to the House.

It is expected that the Queen's Printers and the Stationery Office will go on printing Parliamentary Papers of every kind, and these will be available in the Printed Paper Office within a few hours of their publication. But Hansard and the Minutes of Proceedings, Bills, and Amendments cannot of course be des patched by post. Arrangements have however, been made for extra stocks to be despatched and held in the Printed Paper Office for the use of noble Lords who are able to come to the Office for their copies. Copies of Parliamentary Papers will also be available on a table immediately inside the Peers' Entrance so that noble Lords can come to the House and can pick them up without having to park their cars.

In addition, special arrangements have been made for Papers concerning your Lordships' House, including the Minutes, to be available at any of the Stationery Office shops as soon as may be after the moment of their publication. For the guidance of your Lordships, the addresses of these shops are as follows: In London, 49 High Holborn; in Edinburgh, 31a Castle Street; in Cardiff, 109 St. Mary Street; in Manchester, Brazennose Street; in Bristol, 50 Fairfax Street; in Birmingham, 258 Broad Street; and in Belfast. 7 Linenhall Street. In addition, copies will be available at St. Andrew's House, in Edinburgh; in the Welsh Office, Cathays Park, Cardiff, and at Stormont Castle, Belfast.

These arrangements have been made so as to enable Peers generally, in case the strike endures for any length of time, to take steps of some kind to discover forthcoming Business. Arrangements are also being made for details of Business of the House to be published in the Press and, it is hoped, broadcast by the B.B.C. and I.T.V. as well.

Perhaps I may take this opportunity of reminding your Lordships that dinners will be available this evening between 7 and 8.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for his account of the arrangements, though I am slightly nervous about his proposals for noble Lords not parking their cars while picking up Papers. I am not quite sure whether this is wise advice. As it is, many noble Lords are apt to leave their cars unattended outside the Peers' Entrance. None the less, I am grateful for the consideration that has been given. I am sure the noble Earl will continue to keep the House informed. I think it is important that full statements on Business should appear in the Press, and it would be particularly helpful if any announcements made by the B.B.C. could be made at the end of "Yesterday in Parliament", which I think is just before 9 a.m. This would be particularly convenient if there are to be any changes.

The only other point I should like to make is this. I understand that at some stage a Statement is being made in another place in connection with the strike. The general feeling of the House is that we do not like our debates to be interrupted, but I do not doubt that, as matters develop, if there are any important Statements to be made, the Leader of the House or the noble Earl should not hesitate to make them, even at the end of Business, so that they get on to the Record; because not all noble Lords read the Commons Hansard from cover to cover.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he has anything of which he can tell us about the continuation of the telephone system in the Palace of Westminster? Is there to be any service at all? Is it to be a limited service? Or is to be completely cut off?


My Lords, with regard to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, I understand that the telephone system will be continuing in operation. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was a little doubtful about my arrangement to have copies of Hansard available at the Peers' Entrance of your Lordships' House. My reason for doing this was that I thought a number of Peers might wish to pick up Parliamentary Papers on the way to the office, and if they had to park their cars and to come up to the Printed Paper Office it would be wasting their time. I thought that by adopting this arrangement their time might be saved.


My Lords, I am all for having the Papers available at that place so that Peers do not have to come upstairs; but unless the noble Earl is going to provide a kiosk or something of that kind, I am not in favour of cars being parked for more than a second or two outside the Peers' Entrance.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether it would not be possible to have an address where these Papers could be obtained in Glasgow, which, after all, is of comparable size to the cities in the Midlands of England?


My Lords, I am slightly governed here by the situation of Her Majesty's Printed Paper Offices. To the best of my knowledge, there is not one in Glasgow at the moment, and it might therefore be difficult to find a suitable place at which to have these Papers available. But certainly I will look into the noble Lord's point.


My Lords, would not the noble Earl agree that, following the Statement that he has made, it is rather surprising that your Lordships have not received a similar report which was passed on to another place concerning the strike of the Post Office workers? I say that because some of us have some quite potent questions that we should like to put to the Government.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord is referring to the Statement made yesterday. Perhaps I should inform the noble Lord that here our practice is that, after consultation with noble Lords opposite, and if it is particularly desired, a Statement which has been made in another place on the day before can be repeated here. But it is generally considered to be rather stale news by the time it is repeated here on the second day. This is the reason why usually it is not done.


My Lords, reverting to the noble Earl's statement that the telephone service will be maintained here, can he inform us whether this is to be by the voluntary co-operation of the union or whether it is by any other method?


My Lords, I think I said—I certainly meant to say—that I hoped that the telephone service would continue in the Palace of Westminster. I am afraid that I am not in a position at the moment to give the noble Lord any further details. The information I have is that it is expected that it will continue. More than that I am afraid I cannot say at the moment.


My Lords, arising out of the noble Earl's very useful and comprehensive Statement, and with particular reference to his remark that Hansard and White Papers may be picked up from Her Majesty's Stationery Offices, can he tell us whether the staff of those Stationery Offices have been instructed to supply these documents without payment to noble Lords who may present themselves there?


My Lords, obviously it would be the desire of your Lordships, and I am sure of the Government, that these copies should be free to Members of this House. But I am afraid that at the moment I cannot say for certain that they will be. Obviously they will be free if they are picked up at the Peers' Entrance of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I was thinking of our Scottish comrades.