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Courtaulds, Preston (Mill Closure)

Volume 974: debated on Monday 19 November 1979

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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 closure of Courtaulds Red Scar mill, Preston."
May I say, Mr. Speaker, that many of my constituents would consider this matter to be a little more important than the activities of Anthony Blunt?

The 90 days' notice of closure of this factory has been given by Courtaulds. That notice having been given on Friday, you will readily understand, Mr. Speaker, why this is the earliest possible time at which the matter could be raised with you on the Floor of the House of Commons.

There are 2,600 jobs involved, and the imminent loss of these jobs comes rapidly on top of the closure of a textile mill last Saturday, which meant the loss of 800 jobs, and on top of the Preston borough council's decision to close Preston dock. In fact, we are here talking of the loss of between 4,000 and 6,000 jobs in the Preston area, which will deliver a tremendous body blow to the town of Preston.

As I am sure you are aware, Mr. Speaker, Courtaulds produces viscose filament yarn, which is used mainly by the tyre industry. Financial losses of about £5 million over the past four years have put the company in difficulties, and it may well be that companies such as Dunlop, Michelin and Goodyear, which are now buying this yarn from Holland and Austria, have to some extent contributed to the present position—another illustration of the lack of planning in our trade.

The closure will immediately affect 12,000 workers and their families. Moreover, there will be a loss of skill that we shall need over the next few years when the developing countries find it necessary to withhold their cotton.

In my view it is essential that the House should address itself to this problem and consider ways by which we can replace productivity in the Preston area—and in the Red Scar mill in particular—so that the workers may have employment in this factory and it is not closed. It is our responsibility, Mr. Speaker—the responsibility of the House, the company and the work force—to find some means of preventing the closure.

The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) gave me notice before 12 o'clock today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believed should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the closure of Courtaulds Red Scar mill, Preston."
I listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman said. As the House knows, I do not decide whether the matter is to be discussed. My discretion is limited to the question whether it is of such a nature that it should be discussed tonight or tomorrow night. As the House knows also, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision.

I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.