HC Deb 22 January 1981 vol 997 cc434-5
Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the proposed closure of the Liverpool Tate and Lyle cane refinery". The matter has already been aired on the Floor of the House today and the House is probably well aware of the very strong feelings arising from the decision of the company to withdraw its operations from Liverpool.

Liverpool has had the presence of the sugar industry for well over a century, and the withdrawal of a company marks a further decline in the old industrial life of Liverpool. We have already seen the destruction of the shipbuilding and ship repair industries, and the massive loss of jobs on the docks.

The loss of approximately 1,800 jobs is serious enough, but my constituency, in which the refinery is situated, has already one of the highest levels, if not the highest level, of unemployment in the United Kingdom, certainly well above 50 per cent.

If the factory closes, there will be a spin-off effect which it is estimated will cause the loss of another 4,000 to 5,000 jobs. I refer to the brewing, sweets and confectionery, and cake and biscuit industries. There will also be a loss of jobs on the docks, which already have serious economic problems.

The Tate and Lyle company, which made the announcement this morning about sacking these people and throwing them on the scrap heap, also announced that its profits had increased by £4½ million last year, to a total of £30.7 million. This is the naked and vicious face of capitalism. It shows that the company has no consideration for human suffering or for the degradation of people in the inner areas of Liverpool.

A further important aspect is that the proposed closure will reduce the commitment, under the Loméconvention, to the import of 1.3 million tonnes from ACP countries. If the figure is to be only 100,000 tonnes, as has been mentioned, this will have a serious effect on the economy of the smaller countries in the Third world whose total economy is based on sugar cane production.

The Minister of Agriculture—who, unfortunately, is not in his place today—has a lot to answer for in regard to this closure. He has tried to ride two horses in the one race. He has always supported the sugar beet farmers's lobby, and this has been against the interests of the cane workers in Liverpool. It would be interesting if, some day, the right hon. Gentleman would tell us how much sugar beet he grows. If the Minister had listened to requests from myself and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he must not make the speech that he would make if I were to grant the application.

Mr. Parry

If the Minister had heeded the requests made to him by me, by my colleagues and by the trade unions, this present problem would not have arisen. The right hon. Gentleman, according to the feelings of the workers in Liverpool, is a twister and has spoken in this House with a forked tongue—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Being an hon. Member of this House is incompatible with being a twister. The hon. Gentleman must find another word and withdraw the word "twister".

Mr. Parry

I did not call the Minister a twister. I said that he is considered by the workers in Liverpool—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must maintain parliamentary standards. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw the charge of an hon. Member being a twister.

Mr. Parry

I will withdraw, under pressure, Mr. Speaker. All I can say is that the Minister of Agriculture has sold these jobs in Liverpool down the river. In view of the serious economic problems on Merseyside, and the effect that the closure will have, I hope that you will accept the application.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) gave me notice this morning, before 12 o'clock, that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believed should have urgent consideration, namely, the proposed closure of the Liverpool Tate and Lyle cane refinery". The whole House will have listened with concern to the exchanges earlier this afternoon on this question. I understood that the hon. Gentleman was speaking under deep emotion. I was well aware of that when he presented his case to the House.

As the House knows, it has given me instructions to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision.

I have no doubt of the importance of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.