MP told to apologise after 'whingeing workforce' jibe against Cadbury staff
The MP who attacked Cadbury’s “whingeing workforce”, has been asked to apologise to Bournville workers following a furious clash with Birmingham MPs in the House of Commons.
Bill Wiggin, a Conservative whip and Herefordshire MP, came under fire from city MPs Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak) and Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) as MPs debated US food giant Kraft’s takeover bid for the Birmingham-based chocolate manufacturer.
As tempers rose, Sir Alan Haselhurst, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, had to intervene to demand that MPs stop making personal attacks.
Ms Stuart has now written to Mr Wiggin (Con Leominster), asking him to apologise to Cadbury staff.
It follows an radio interview in which Mr Wiggin criticised the reaction of unions to the takeover bid, saying: “I have seen the trade unions talking down this company and I worry that by sending out such negative signals it puts people’s jobs more at risk because who wants to hire a whingeing workforce when you could hire a really positive upbeat one?”
His words were condemned by Ms Stuart in the House of Commons, as she urged asked colleagues whether they “share my outrage” about the statement. She added: “Surely we need to talk up the work force in order to support Cadbury in Birmingham?”
Mr Wiggin intervened, telling the Commons: “Perhaps inadvertently, the honourable member for Birmingham, Edgbaston seeks to misrepresent my true feelings.”
But Dr Jones continued the attack, telling the Commons: “The honourable gentleman’s words condemn him themselves, in terms of his attitude towards the work force and the trade unions.”
At that point, Mr Wiggin attempted to interrupt. But every MP was silenced by the Deputy Speaker, who suggested every MP involved in the argument was letting down Cadbuty workers.
He said: “I have also appealed for this debate to be taken seriously. This is a matter of considerable national interest as well as being a matter of interest in the Birmingham and West Midlands area, and it should be dealt with on that basis.
“I hope that there will be no more personality references, because they are not serving the interests of Cadbury employees at all.”
Business Minister Ian Lucas told MPs that the Government would consider changes to the law to prevent takeover bids which were designed simply to make a short-term profit.
However, he also made it clear that this would not affect Cadbury, saying “the matter must be one for the shareholders to decide”.
He said: “We believe that there is real value in having a discussion about how we build a stronger culture of long-term commitment to sustainable company growth in this country. That should be based on co-operation between ultimate owners, fund managers and the corporate sector.”
Mr Lucas said Business Secretary Peter Mandelson would meet with Kraft senior managers to ask for detailed reassurances about future of Cadbury’s brands and workforce.
He said: “We are determined to maintain levels of investment in Cadbury in the United Kingdom, and to ensure that jobs are secured.”
But Peter Luff (Con Mid Worcestershire), Chair of the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said: “They have demonstrated that they have no powers to prevent the takeover from happening and now they are seeking assurances from Kraft. Can the Minister confirm that they have no powers to enforce these assurances?”