HC Deb 05 February 1957 vol 564 cc222-4
17. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what reply he has sent to the communication received from the managing director of the Hawick knitwear firm of Lyle and Scott concerning the threatened take-over bid.

22. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what communications he has had about an attempt to take over an 83-years-old Hawick knitwear firm; and whether he will make a statement.

28. Mr. Lawson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has considered the implications for Hawick and the Border counties which are likely to arise if local control of the 83-year-old knitwear firm of Lyle and Scott is lost by a take-over bid; and what action he is taking in the interests of this area.

Mr. N. Macpherson

Like other right hon. and hon. Members, my right hon. Friend has received representations from the managing director of Messrs. Lyle and Scott, Ltd., about the sale of shares in his company. My right hon. Friend has informed him that he has brought these representations to the notice of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but that as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has himself no jurisdiction to intervene and as he understands that the company has raised certain actions in the Court of Session, he would not be justified in making any comment.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the Minister not aware that a great proportion of the population of Scotland is deeply shocked by the immorality and the ruthlessness of this take-over bid? Has the hon. Gentleman received a letter from the chairman of the company, dated 31st January? The chairman says, among other things: My personal view is that the dignity of man and his pride in his work are allowed to be trampled into the dust by a system under which anyone can buy shares in a company without revealing his name. Is not the hon. Gentleman disturbed by this kind of thing? Has he or the President of the Board of Trade no power to stop this despicable action?

Mr. Macpherson

As the matter is sub judice, I would deprecate any further comment upon it.

Mr. H. Wilson

Without wishing to comment upon any parts of this issue which are sub judice—we are all agreed about that—may I ask whether the Minister, when approaching the President of the Board of Trade, pressed on him that this responsibility falls clearly to him under the Companies Act? Was the purpose of bringing it to his notice a possible inquiry under the Companies Act?

Mr. Macpherson

I prefer to withhold further comment on this matter at the present time.

Commander Donaldson

While not wishing to intervene in matters which may be sub judice on this company and affairs which lie in my constituency, may I ask my hon. Friend to draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade to the principle involved in this matter of take-over bids which is causing concern in the three counties which I have the honour to represent?

Mr. Rankin

Will not the Secretary of State for Scotland give his views on the matter and not hide behind a mere legal technicality? Does he not realise that the monopolistic tendencies of Mr. Hugh Fraser will have to be dealt with either now or at some later date?

Mr. Speaker

I must protest against the use of the phrase "legal technicality" with regard to the rules of order about discussing matters which are sub judice. I do not know the extent of the action in the Court of Session, so I am unable to control it, but hon. Gentlemen who know more about the subject should be very careful.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. Surely, apart from any stage which this business has reached on the legal side, the Secretary of State for Scotland still has views on the question which—

Mr. Speaker rose

Mr. Lawson

No doubt the Joint Under-Secretary of State will be aware of the importance of this industry to the Borders of Scotland and the need for its extension. Does he not agree that the more successful the firm the greater the danger of its being bought out by some group of financial Smart Alecs? Will he see that the matter is looked at much more closely than he has suggested?

Mr. Macpherson

This matter is primarily within the Departmental responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade, to whom there is a Question down later today.