§ Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House. under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the proposed takeover of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries by Elders IXL.The matter is urgent because the takeover bid was launched on Monday, and it has already caused widespread concern and opposition in Scotland and England. The Government's attitude must be made clear as quickly as possible.
The matter is important because Scottish and Newcastle is the second largest manufacturing company in Scotland and has 11 per cent. of the United Kingdom market. Elders has 9.5 per cent. Together they would account for 21 per cent. of the United Kingdom market. Scottish and Newcastle employs 24,000 people—4,000 in my constituency, 6,000 in Newcastle and others throughout the United Kingdom.
Scottish and Newcastle is a successful company. It is not a lame duck, but it is another in a line of companies which have been subject to hostile takeover bids, and this highlights the lack of effective Government policy on takeovers and mergers. The bid would be bad for Edinburgh and Scotland because decision-making would pass to the other side of the world. All that Elders offers is a wholly-owned subsidiary, but control would remain in Melbourne. All that it is offering is a brass plate on an Edinburgh door, and, despite all that Elders says in its glossy publicity and what its paid consultants say, the whole thing is reminiscent of the Guinness affair. It is vital that this United Kingdom company should remain based in Edinburgh. It is vital to Scotland's beleaguered industrial base and to jobs in Scotland and the north of England.
In a recent leaked Scottish Office report, it was made clear that Scottish companies were exposed because of the Government's lack of preparation for the European single market. We must make sure that Scottish and Newcastle does not fall victim to that, and we must protect those companies which have set up and flourished outside the south-east of England. We must not let Scotland and the north of England become backwaters of Europe. We cannot allow the short-term needs of the market to decide our long-term future. In those circumstances, I ask for an emergency debate to discuss the matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the takeover bid made by Elders for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.I have listened with care lo what the hon. Gentleman has said about this matter and I appreciate the likely possible impact upon his constituents, but I regret that I do not consider the matter appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot therefore submit his application to the House.