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Little, if anything, has changed since then, and the current proposal has nothing to do with the recession and everything to do with Diageo positioning itself in the global market for the next decade or so, as it is entitled to do. The difference this time is that the company's marketing gurus and desire for more shareholder value have convinced its executives that they can take the risk of breaking the link between the world's best-known Scotch whisky and its history. Furthermore, they must have been prepared to contemplate the disastrous social effects that the decision would have on the community
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that I represent, which has so loyally served the company for about 200 years, and they must have considered that a price worth paying. I do not believe that it is.

Making the case for the company to think again is my job as a politician; it would be a dereliction of my duty not to do now what I did 12 years ago. Thankfully, we are dealing with what in Diageo's own words is a proposal. Its chief executive officer told me to my face that he would listen to an alternative. He has repeated that, both to the First Minister and to the Secretary of State for Scotland-and, no doubt, to the Scottish Affairs Committee. We intend to take him at his word.

I am not in the business of peddling false hopes and I realise how difficult this will be, but I am determined that all of us involved in this side of the argument will work together to produce an alternative that is at least as attractive as the proposal that is on the table at present. Scottish Enterprise has accepted the mandate to conduct the assessment of the underlying financial and business plan to enable us to come up with that alternative. The First Minister of Scotland has cast himself in the role of principal interlocutor with Diageo. Yesterday in a meeting in Edinburgh, local politicians and I made it perfectly clear to John Swinney, the Finance Secretary, and his officials and the senior management of Scottish Enterprise, that time is of the essence.

Diageo's 90-day consultation clock is ticking, and the unions are already embroiled in consultations. If those consultations are not to become simply an opportunity for the company to justify its proposal, the shape of the alternative must begin to emerge sooner rather than later. When the First Minister meets the chief executive officer of Diageo next week, this story must move on. The campaign is bringing the community that I represent together in a spectacular fashion, but behind closed doors the uncertainty is destroying its confidence in its future. That cannot be allowed to go on.

My constituents are very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister's Government for the support expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House at Prime Minister's questions last week. However, on my constituents' behalf I have some messages for the Government and I look forward to hearing the Minister's response. First, the UK Government must stand ready to support, in any way that they can while respecting devolved responsibilities, any alternative proposal that emerges. I repeat that what has happened is not a consequence of recession and the decision is not driven by duty rates on spirits; consequently, the levers that the UK Government hold will be limited. However, as the counter-proposal emerges, and if we need to come for support, my constituents need to know that it will be there.

My right hon. Friend the Minister is a fellow Scot and a former adviser to the late Donald Dewar, and he has a long history of appreciation of Scots values and heritage. I do not have to explain to him just how important these historical links are to Scotland's most famous export. Does he share my concern about the facility with which whisky executives now seem to be able to trot out the justifications for not only breaking the link but for moving even more than 20 per cent. of whisky bottling offshore?

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David Mundell: I thank the right hon. Gentleman and congratulate him on his campaign, which has my full support and that of my colleagues in Scotland. Does he agree that if Diageo is the blue-chip, high-quality global company that it holds itself to be, the 90-day consultation will be a genuine one in which a counter-proposal will be listened to and properly and legitimately evaluated, rather than being a sham exercise simply endorsing decisions that have already been made?

Des Browne: The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. I have spoken to the chief executive officer of Diageo, and I believe him to be a man of his word. He has given me his word that the company will listen to any alternative proposals during the consultation. I have to say that I was slightly concerned by the message that I was receiving, and the distillation of it, last Thursday, when I thought that a different message was in fact being given. However, I am satisfied that the man paid to run the company is telling me the truth and that it will listen. The onus is on us to come up with the alternative to persuade it. I do not underestimate how difficult that will be, but we need to get the opportunity to do it, and the company needs to listen to what we have to say.

I conclude by requesting that my right hon. Friend the Minister ensures that his officials keep in regular contact with their colleagues in Scottish Enterprise and in the Scottish Government, and that he gives this House an undertaking that he will keep us informed of any significant developments.

7.39 pm

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr. Pat McFadden): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Des Browne) on securing this debate. I have spoken to him about this issue several times in recent weeks, and I know how much it means to him and to his constituents. He is of course deeply concerned about the jobs of the Diageo workers in his constituency and the effect that the loss of those jobs will have not only on the families involved but on the wider community in Kilmarnock and the rest of Ayrshire.

The Scotch whisky industry is hugely important to the UK economy. Figures published last month by the Scotch Whisky Association put the value of annual whisky shipments at more than £3 billion, earning £97 a second for the UK last year. Overall, the equivalent of more than 1 billion bottles of Scotch whisky were shipped all over the world-to north and central America, Australia, Europe and Asia. Whisky also means jobs. About three quarters of the UK's distilled alcoholic drinks enterprises are located in Scotland, with an estimated 41,000 people employed just in making, distilling and bottling whisky.

Diageo is a major player in all this. It owns 29 whisky distilleries in Scotland, and houses all its maturing Scotch whisky in Scottish warehouses. Twenty-eight per cent. of its net sales are from Scotch whisky; that is a very large figure when one considers that it has sales of about £8 billion. Diageo directly employs 4,500 people across 50 sites. The Government, through UK Trade and Investment, have strongly supported the Scotch whisky industry, as my right hon. Friend said, and we
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have worked with Diageo in developing export markets. We very much appreciate the importance of that company and of the industry in general.

Diageo's proposal is twofold. The first part is to close the packaging plant in Kilmarnock-one of three in Scotland-along with the cooperage in Port Dundas that was mentioned. The second part is to make a new investment of some £100 million, creating 400 new jobs elsewhere in Scotland. I understand that, as my right hon. Friend said, this has been greeted in Kilmarnock, where the greatest number of jobs will go, with deep disappointment and dismay.

My right hon. Friend outlined the history; if someone knows the history, it means something to them. Kilmarnock is known as the home of Johnnie Walker whisky. Place has a huge role to play in whisky brands. As he said, when people buy whisky, they are not just buying a drink-they are buying into a story about place, heritage and tradition. That is one of the major reasons for whisky's success. This particular whisky has been blended in Kilmarnock for almost two centuries, ever since Johnnie Walker himself blended it and sold it in Kilmarnock high street back in 1819. In fact, one of the earliest incarnations of the whisky was called Walker's Kilmarnock. Since then, generations of Kilmarnock families, including Johnnie Walker's descendents, Alexander Walker and Alexander Walker II, have added to the story of the whisky, whether through the iconic square bottle introduced in 1870 or the distinctive label applied, I understand, at the precise angle of 24°.

The association of the brand with real people and real places helps make Johnnie Walker such a distinctive and successful whisky. In fact its influence goes beyond the pleasure of drinking, as it has a wider cultural influence. I could name Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, The Band, The Streets and ZZ Top as just some of the artists to have featured Johnnie Walker in their lyrics. Films such as "The Dirty Dozen" and great television programmes such as "The West Wing" contain references to Johnnie Walker. Indeed, there is even a Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, who went so far as to create a character called Johnnie Walker.

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Johnnie Walker is a whisky renowned throughout the world, with a far-reaching cultural influence. Perhaps that is one reason why there are yearly sales of more than 120 million bottles. Such is the product's worth that owning one bottle of a particular Johnnie Walker blue label of which I understand there are only 200 in existence would set one back an estimated $30,000.

The affinity between the town and the brand helps explain why the proposal to close the plant in Kilmarnock has aroused such passionate and vocal opinion in the local community. As my right hon. Friend said, there is a 90-day consultation on the plans, and Diageo has given guarantees that there will be no compulsory job losses in the next 12 months. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has met the Diageo chief executive, to whom I spoke briefly about the matter today.

Campaigners in Scotland have urged Diageo to consider seriously any alternative options that the workers and Scottish Enterprise can come up with, including the possibility of relocating to different sites in Kilmarnock and Glasgow if suitable proposals emerge. The business of devising alternative solutions involves the First Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the chairman of Scottish Enterprise and many others. They are working on putting together an alternative proposal for the company. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun said, a meeting yesterday was convened by the Scottish Government's Finance Minister, John Swinney.

For our part, we believe that the work that the Scottish Government and their agencies are taking forward is crucial. I hope and believe that the company is genuine about consultation and open-minded about possibilities. The UK Government will continue to work with the company and my right hon. Friend, and to engage with the work force about the best way forward on this crucial issue.

Question put and agreed to.

7.47 pm

House adjourned.

Deferred Division

East Midlands Regional Grand Committee

The House divided: Ayes 277, Noes 180.
Division No. 201]


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Balls, rh Ed
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, rh Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, rh Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith

Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, rh Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, rh Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Simpson, David
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek

Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Dorries, Nadine
Duddridge, James
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John

Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willott, Jenny
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Question accordingly agreed to.
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