No help in Rowntree takeover battle

York Press: The Hands Off Rowntree campaigners pleaded with Mrs Thatcher to halt the takeover of Rowntree by Nestlé in 1988 The Hands Off Rowntree campaigners pleaded with Mrs Thatcher to halt the takeover of Rowntree by Nestlé in 1988

Margaret Thatcher famously declined to intervene when, in 1988, the people of York pleaded with her to halt the takeover of Rowntree by Swiss giant Nestlé.

More than 13,500 people signed the then Yorkshire Evening Press’s Hands Off Rowntree coupons, and more than 1,500 Rowntree workers and supporters held a rally outside the Houses of Parliament.

But Mrs Thatcher refused to be drawn into commenting on the issue – and her Government decided not to refer the Nestlé bid for Rowntree to the monopolies and mergers commission.

In May 1988 the Prime Minister did, however, launch an attack on the North of England for failing to keep up with economic change.

She said that northern cities had been “built by people of enterprise, talent and ability" but added: “They did not then wholly keep up with the times.”

The comments sparked anger in the wake of her Government's refusal to intervene in the Rowntree takeover. The then Labour leader Neil Kinnock accused her of “not doing a damn thing” to help Rowntree and accused her of turning her back on the North’s industrial legacy.

In the six years following the takeover, the Nestlé Rowntree workforce was slashed by 2,000 – though the company remains to this day one of York’s largest and most successful employers.

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