Dale savours attack on soup giant

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The Independent Online

Westminster Correspondent

One of mightiest corporations in the United States must be regretting the day it crossed the path of one of Britain's most tenacious veteran MPs.

Faced with the closure by Campbell Soups of a factory in his Workington constituency, Dale Campbell-Savours called for a boycott of its products and wrote to newspapers throughout Britain, appealing to the conscience of readers.

Yesterday he obtained signatures from a majority of MPs on an Early Day Motion demanding that the company reverse its decision. Of the 331 signatories, 48 were Conservatives, including six former ministers. In the past 48 years, only 24 Early Day Motions have attracted a parliamentary majority. Never before have Tory MPs joined with Labour formally to condemn a factory closure. In August, Campbell Soups paid pounds 58.6m for Homepride; three months later, the company announced the closure of the Homepride factory in Maryport, near Workington.

The MP accused the Americans of merely being interested in protecting their own brand name and destroying a profitable plant, a good industrial- relations record and a loyal, 123-strong workforce. The company, he said, was wrecking people's lives and a small, close-knit Cumbrian community.

He took his fight to Downing Street, where he saw John Major, and to Campbell's home turf in the US, at his own expense, where he lobbied shareholders at their annual meeting.

A Campbell's spokesman said the Early Day Motion, which questions the closure decision and calls for its reversal, changed nothing. Agreement had been reached with all the Maryport workers to provide new jobs elsewhere or pay redundancy. "The facts are very straightforward," said the spokesman. "All 123 have been offered jobs and those who are staying have all agreed terms."