HC Deb 20 March 1991 vol 188 c295

4.9 pm

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

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 loss of 1,500 jobs in the Lewis Group of retail stores". The Lewis group recently went into receivership and Grant Thornton, the accountants, was appointed the receivers. Grant Thornton is set to make a deal of sale of five of the stores with Owen Owen, a retail stores group, which will result in the loss of 1,500 jobs.

The matter is urgent for the simple reason that that deal will be made on Friday and any opportunity for further bids will be prevented. The receivers, Grant Thornton, are giving inadequate consideration to the offer of a management buy-out which is backed by substantial funds from Shire Trust and other venture capital funds to purchase all 10 of the remaining stores in the group and the warehouse and head office, thus preserving the 1,500 jobs. It is likely that, if Owen Owen is allowed to purchase the stores, the result will be job losses in Liverpool among my own constituents, and at the remaining stores in Preston, Blackpool, Leicester, Thurrock and Glasgow, as it is unlikely that they will attract buyers.

The purchaser, Owen Owen, backed by Capital and Counties Plc, wants only five stores, three of which are in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. The company already owns a store in Liverpool and, as a consequence, there is a great fear in the north-west that the Lewis's store could be sold, with great job losses. There would be no need for the Liverpool head office and warehouses to be retained, but they would be required by the management buy-out team, which would protect a large proportion of the jobs.

The receiver was appointed by the National Westminster and Lloyds banks, both of which, it is calculated, will recover their indebtedness from the management buy-out deal. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason why all those who are interested should not be given an adequate opportunity to bid for the stores.

We in the north-west have suffered a recession in the past—in the early 80s—when we fought to retain jobs. It is vital that we continue to fight. It is under those circumstances that I seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House.

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 break-up of the Lewis Group and the loss of 1,500 jobs I have listened with concern to what the hon. Gentleman has said. He knows that I have to decide whether to give that matter precedence over the business set down for today or for tomorrow. In this case, I regret that the matter that he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.