HC Deb 06 November 1972 vol 845 cc603-5
8. Mr. Abse

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his discussions with Imperial Chemical Industries Fibres, Pontypool, relating to the future of the fibres research and technical development departments.

Mr. Peter Thomas

As soon as I heard of this regrettable closure I met senior company representatives and urged them to reconsider their plans, but they were unwilling to do so. I was assured that the rundown will be managed so as to relieve individual hardship and that the new investment of £2 million at Pontypool, which I welcome, should safeguard the future of the production plant.

Mr. Abse

Before the Secretary of State begins to accept this closure as a fact, may I ask him whether he is aware that on Harlech Television on Friday night, under interrogation by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. John Stradling Thomas) and myself, the Chairman of the man-made fibres section of ICI, however equivocally, suggested that he was open to still further persuasion as a result of talks that are now going on? In the light of that, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of being so despairing, again intervene and emphasise the social irresponsibility of a closure involving such a massive brain drain from Wales? When he does intervene, will he point out that the company will be leaving, if it does leave, nearly half a million square feet of laboratory and office space totally abandoned in Monmouthshire as a consequence of this flagrant act, so obviously against the interests of development in Wales?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that when I met representatives of the company I put forward as strongly as I could the case for retaining this research unit in Pontypool. They felt at the time that the arguments for moving were overwhelming. This is essentially a commercial decision and the Government would have no power to intervene if the company's decision was final. I am glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, that it is still open to persuasion.

Mr. Jeffrey Thomas

In view of the mounting anxiety in Monmouthshire about this matter will the Secretary of State agree that he has given an incredibly complacent answer? Would he not further agree that the directors of ICI have behaved in a thoroughly diabolical and inhuman way about the whole affair? Will he look again at the many contracts which the Government have with ICI with a view, if necessary, to those contracts being transferred to Monmouthshire?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was not being in any way complacent. I expressed my concern because I regarded this as a regrettable decision. I was happy to hear from the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) that the decision was not yet final. I assure right hon. and hon. Members that I shall do everything possible to try to persuade ICI to reverse the decision that it has announced.

Mr. George Thomas

In view of the statements by the Secretary of State and by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), may we have a categorical assurance that the Secretary of State will see the chairman again and indicate to him that both sides of the House regard it as offensive that such a major concern should treat people as though they were chattels and not even discuss with them beforehand a major move of this kind?

Mr. Peter Thomas

It is my intention to see the chairman in view of the remark made by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) reporting that he said he was still open to persuasion. I assure the House that I shall follow this up.