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Workington Brewery (Closure)

Volume 130: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1988

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4.27 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The proposed closure of the Workington brewery by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries in contravention of assurances given to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1986 to safeguard employment in Workington."
The House will recognise that, while the matter is specific to my constituency, it is important to the country as a whole because Scottish and Newcastle has set out clearly in the leaked minutes which I have in my possession, and which were referred to in The Independent this morning, to deceive the people of Workington in an unparalleled manner.

Last year, Scottish and Newcastle successfully acquired the profitable Mathew Brown brewery on the back of a collapsing stock market and having given half-hearted assurances to the people of Workington and the Government that it would not threaten jobs. No sooner had it acquired control of the company than it set up a small group of senior management to plan the brewery's closure.

The plan involved opportunism, dishonesty, deception and betrayal. Directors of the company, often pillars of the community in areas where they live, were party to a squalid and underhand operation which, under the code name "Operation Trojan", planned the deception of the trade unions during negotiations on wages; an attempt to appoint a company placeman in the unionised work force without the knowledge of the unions; the manipulation of regional development grant applications to avoid raising premature suspicions among employees; the use of Scottish and Newcastle's big guns if things became difficult; the handling of misleading information in response to local speculation and local opposition; the holding of covert brewing trials under false labels in Newcastle; and the deployment of the lie in defence of the company's interests.

The irony is that Virgil tells us that the use of the Trojan horse to get access to Troy was the means by which the Greeks gained control and destroyed the city. Scottish and Newcastle's Operation Trojan was equally designed to gain control by deception and deceit, and then having secured control, to destroy the Mathew Brown citadel in Workington. Mr. Speaker, can we debate this matter.

The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The proposed closure of the Workington brewery by Scottish and Newcastle breweries in contravention of the assurances given to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1986 to safeguard employment in Workington."
I have listened with concern to what the hon. Member has said, but I regret that the matter that he has raised is not appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.