HC Deb 16 June 1959 vol 607 cc223-5
18. Mr. Ross

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to prevent the closure of Scottish branch factories and the transfer of the work to England, and to prevent the closure of Scottish firms bought over by south-based companies; and if he will take further powers to prevent actions so damaging to Scottish industry.

Mr. J. Rodgers

The closure of branch factories or transfer of work must depend on the commercial judgment of the management of the firm concerned, but where the Board of Trade has prior notice of intended closure, possible alternatives would be explored with the firm.

Mr. Ross

Surely the Minister should be aware that such centralisation of industry in areas already amply industrialised constitutes a hindrance to the Government's development policy. Is he aware that there is strong feeling in Ayrshire that the Government's failure or impotence to deal with this problem will create a much more serious employment problem in the future? It is bad enough now.

Mr. Rodgers

We have no information now at the Board of Trade that English firms have bought up Scottish firms with the deliberate intention of closing them down or moving them into England.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that it has happened in the past and that there is grave apprehension that it is happening now? Would he not agree to appoint someone to intercede, perhaps, with the firms to see whether some arrangement could be made by which they could stay in Scotland—not to close factories in Scotland or take them south of the Border where the industrial areas are already overcrowded?

Mr. Rodgers

The advice of the Controller for Scotland is always available to firms. However, we must leave the management of industry, on both sides of the Border, to the commercial judgment of the firms.

Mr. Woodburn

If the country devotes large sums of capital to housing, has not the nation a stake in the matter as well as the firms? If the two can combine to make a profitable organisation, should not that be done?

Mr. Rodgers

We agree that the State has an interest in the matter. That is why we are taking the steps we have taken to try to steer more industries to Scotland.

Mr. Osborne

Will my hon. Friend consider an appeal to those Scotsmen who have come South and made great fortunes to take some of their industrial enterprises back into Scotland and to use the money made in England to help industry there?

Mr. Rodgers

I think that that suggestion will be read by Scotsmen with interest.

Mr. Jay

Will the Parliamentary Secretary consult the Prime Minister about this? Even though the commercial prospects of a firm cannot be ignored, surely it is the duty of the Board of Trade to exert a certain amount of pressure on a firm, where other things are equal, or nearly equal, to maintain production and employment in Scotland and other such areas.

Mr. Rodgers

I agree with that suggestion, but, as I said in my original Answer, where we have prior notice of intended closure, possible alternatives are explored by the Board of Trade with the firm's representatives.