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Timex (Redundancies)

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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4.5 pm

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 employment and industrial implications of the Timex cutback in Dundee".
In the late afternoon of Friday 7 January a company called Nimslo, with which Timex had a contract for the development and manufacture of a 3D camera at Dundee, announced that the contract had been terminated. The announcement, which was made in London, was not communicated to the work force, although it meant the likely loss of 500 jobs. The manner of the announcement and the untrue and damaging remarks that were associated with it caused anger in Dundee, especially when it was learnt that the camera, which had largely been redesigned by Timex to make it a viable proposition, was to be produced in Japan.

The injury was compounded on Monday 10 January when Timex announced 1,900 redundancies which covered the watchmaking side of the business as well as that concerned with the loss of the Nimslo camera. Timex intended to retain 2,300 jobs in the city for work on computers and some remaining aspects of watch production, but as events developed it became clear that those jobs could also be at risk.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that under this type of application you must be satisfied on three counts. First, the application is specific. It refers to a crisis where 1,900 and possibly 4,200 jobs are in danger. It addresses itself to the employment and industrial implications that arise from the ease with which multinational companies can transfer business away from a factory without being accountable for their actions. A debate would allow the House to consider those implications against the background of the experience in Dundee which has found that it is relatively easy for another country—Japan—to pirate the 3D camera that has been developed in Dundee. It is also facing the loss of other business to another Timex associated company—Besancon—which is heavily subsidised by the French Government.

Secondly, the subject is obviously important. The threat that faces Dundee is proportionately similar to the impact that the closure of British Leyland would have on the English midlands.

Thirdly, the matter is urgent. On Friday, 14 January the Secretary of State for Scotland held an emergency meeting in Edinburgh. He assured me that the Government would consider deeply a financial package that might help. However, newspaper reports that were published the following day gave the opposite impression of the Government's attitude. It is natural that the House cannot be party to negotiations that are carried out between management and trade unions, but it can impress on Ministers the need to emulate the French Government and ensure that Timex, Dundee and its employees do not fall victim to unfair competition and practices. A financial package could be an important element in securing a solution to avoid catastrophe.

I hope, therefore, that you, Mr. Speaker, will find it possible to allow the application.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he might seek to make an application under Standing Order No. 9 this afternoon.

The hon. Gentleman asks 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,
"the employment and industrial implications of the Timex cutback in Dundee".
The House has listened with deep concern to what the hon. Gentleman has said in submitting his application but he and the House know that 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 do not decide whether a matter should be debated. The decision is taken by others. I merely decide whether there should be an emergency debate. I must 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.