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,
Last night, Sears Holdings, the conglomerate founded by Charles Clore, announced that Pickerings of Blackburn was to close with the loss of the total work force of 520 people. The firm makes tufted carpet machinery. It is one of the few firms in the industry which export all over the world and it was a pioneer of tufted carpet technology. It was one of the first firms in the world to make this machinery. The importance of the matter is that it is not just another run-of-the-mill closure. This was a profitable company until two years ago and, although it has made losses over the past two years, they are insignificant compared with the profit made by Sears Holdings as a whole of £40 million after tax in 1978 and £62 million after tax in 1979. New management was put into the firm in January this year. At that time the chairman of Sears Holdings, Mr. Stainer, said in the annual report on 30 January that he was hopeful that with the change in management the division as a whole would start to show improved results. Everyone knows that it is impossible to turn round a company in six months, but Sears Holdings has decided to give this firm no time to turn the company round. It has decided to abandon the commitment it gave both to the shareholders and to the work force to try to turn the company round over a period, notwithstanding the fact that the firm has a £3·1 million order book and is not suffering from a major lack of demand. It is my strong suspicion that this is an irresponsible decision by Sears Holdings. I think that it is premature and unjustified, and I am satisfied that there was no consultation with the trade unions before the decision was announced. Neither the chairman, Mr. Stainer, nor Mr. Maitland Smith, the chief executive, is even in this country. They are absent abroad. They are not here to justify the decision to the work force. I believe that it is an outrageous and disgraceful decision. It is a cavalier and uncaring way of treating people who have lost their livelihood. The urgency of the situation is that the decision is to take effect in September. There should be urgent Government action before that to intervene to prevent the closure and the loss of 520 jobs. All this is taking place in the very week in which the Government start the withdrawal of assisted area status from Blackburn and North-East Lancashire—Accrington included. That is to happen on the ground that unemployment is not high enough in the area. In the past year unemployment in Blackburn has risen by 53 per cent. and will increase even further on the average of 44 per cent. for the coontry. Unemployment in Accrington has increased by 110 per cent. and it has increased by over 100 per cent. in Nelson and Colne. This is happening while in two other industrial areas receiving industrial assistance, namely, Lancaster and Blackpool, unemployment has not risen by half the national average. In areas such as mine which is now without assistance the unemployment figure is twice the national average. I think that the Government should agree that we should debate the issue so that we can get them to overturn their decision to strip away industrial assistance for the area. Otherwise, unquestionably unemployment will go on rising before we meet again after the recess."the impending closure of Messrs. Pickering Ltd., Blackburn, with the loss of over 500 jobs and the refusal of the Secretary of State for Industry to restore industrial assistance to Blackburn and North-East Lancashire."
The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) gave me notice before noon today that he might seek to make an application under Standing Order No. 9 for leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
I, and the House, have taken careful note of what the hon. Member said about the serious circumstances in his constituency. He is aware that I am directed account of the several factors set out in Standing Order no. 9 but to give no reason for my decision. I am fully conscious of the importance of the matter that the hon. Member has raised, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House."the impending closure of Messrs. Pickering Ltd., Blackburn, with the loss of over 500 jobs and the refusal of the Secretary of State for Industry to restore industrial assistance to Blackburn and North-East Lancashire."