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Burton’s Foods

Volume 460: debated on Monday 14 May 2007

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to debate an important matter that requires specific and urgent consideration, namely, the decision by Burton’s Foods to cease production of biscuits at its Moreton site, with the loss of 660 full-time jobs.

Burton’s is currently the largest private sector employer in my constituency. It has provided a reliable source of employment for generations of my constituents living in Moreton and Leasowe. It is not uncommon for entire families to work at the plant. Many employees have given decades of unbroken service to the company. Last Friday, the employees were taken without warning into the canteen, where the announcement of this intended closure was made. They were then sent home.

Wirral metropolitan borough council and I had been in dialogue with the company some months ago about its review of production and had been promised by the company that it would keep us in touch with the review. That promise was not kept. The first I knew of this devastating closure decision was when I received phone calls from shocked and distressed employees.

In 2001, Burton’s Foods was the recipient of £3 million of regional selective assistance from the Government and £1 million of rate rebates from the local authority to help to finance an expansion of production at the site and safeguard employment in the area. As part of that deal, the work force accepted a three-year pay freeze. Burton’s Foods’ obligations under those agreements ran out in March of this year.

To say that people feel angry and betrayed understates the strength of feeling in Moreton and Leasowe today. Despite the company’s behaviour, however, Wirral council, the trade unions and I stand ready to assist in any way that we can, and urge the company to reverse this decision and work with us to go forward in a more positive way. I believe that it owes it to a long-standing and loyal work force to find another way through these difficulties.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further in the House.

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member has said and I must give my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter that she has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24 and I therefore cannot submit the application to the House.