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Norwich South MP Clive Lewis hits out at government over Colman's Mustard factory closure

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Doug Faulkner

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Doug Faulkner

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Norwich South MP Clive Lewis says he will seek answers in Parliament over why the government failed to keep Britvic and Unilever in Norwich.

It was announced today that Unilever will close the Colman’s Mustard factory in Norwich in 2019, with production moving to Burton-upon-Trent and Germany.

Unilever, which owns the facility, said all 113 jobs at the Carrow Works site will be affected and 45 people could be made redundant.

While part of the production will move out of the county, the packing of mustard powder and the milling of the seed will remain in the Norwich area.

It follows the announcement by Britvic, which shares the site near Trowse, that its factory would be closing, with the loss of around 240 jobs.

That plant, which produces Robinsons and Fruit Shoot, is due to shut next year, with manufacturing switching to Rugby, east London and Leeds.

Business secretary Greg Clark had said the government was in “close contact” with the bosses of the factories and had promised to speak to bosses at Unilever to try to persuade them to keep their operations in Norfolk.

But Mr Lewis, Labour MP, said it was a “truly awful festive period” for the workers who will lose their jobs.

And he hit out at the government’s efforts. He said: “Greg Clark didn’t even have the decency to accept my invitation to come to Norwich and meet with us all here to find a way to keep the jobs in our city.

“This government has failed to understand the lessons of the past 35 years that government cannot be a spectator when it comes to industry.

“No one is asking Greg Clark to ’pick winners’ - simply to support key sectors - like the food and drink manufacturing industry - the way the Scottish government has with strategic investment in new plant and machinery.

“The reality is that hundreds of workers in Norwich have been cast adrift by a government and economic system that has let all of us down again.

“I applaud the valiant efforts of the Unions, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership in trying to find an a viable solution to keep these jobs in Norwich. I cannot say the same for this government. A government that has sat on its hands these past few months.

“I’ll be seeking answers yet again in Parliament next week on why this government has failed Norwich and its Britvic/Unilever workers and what it plans to now do support those affected.

“It didn’t have to turn out like this and it’s not an inevitability that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who said she was “fundamentally disappointed” that neither Unilever or Britvic had chosen to keep the bulk of their operations in Norwich, said: “Senior figures in government have stood with us throughout the last few months to try to keep these historic brands in Norwich.

“The grassroots campaign has been a credit to the city and that has its reward in that the Colman’s brand will remain in Norwich and the supply chain may remain in place.

“My first thoughts are with those constituents who may lose their jobs; my focus for the longer term will be that major employers should continue to see Norwich as a great place to be.”

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