A middle-ranking executive of Kraft Foods says he is “terribly sorry” for the firm’s pledge to keep open Cadbury’s Keynsham plant.
Marc Firestone said the pledge was made in good faith as Kraft expected output to be high enough to sustain the plant.
He made his comments to a committee of MPs who wanted to know why – having promised last year that the plant near Bristol would be kept open in the event of a takeover – the US food giant decided to close the plant within days of its bid being accepted by the Cadbury board.
Mr Firestone, executive vice-president for corporate and legal affairs, did promise there would be no job cuts at any of its UK factories for at least two years after he endured a two-hour grilling by the business select committee.
And he issued the first public apology for the decision to go through with the Cadbury board’s plan from 2007 to shift production to Poland.
“We are sorry to the people who we disappointed,” he said. “We fully understand that for over two years colleagues at Somerdale had been under a closure programme and our statement created uncertainty, and when we announced we would not take it forward, hopes were dashed. We are terribly sorry for that.”
Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft’s chief executive, snubbed today’s inquiry of the Commons Business Select Committee and sent three middle-ranking managers instead.
Earlier in the session, Jack Dromey from Unite union, said Kraft was “utterly cynical to pretend it could reprieve the plant”.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle said Kraft’s promise was “remote, smug and worst of all duplicitous”.
Mr Firestone said he understood the concerns raised by the MPs, but said that Kraft fully intended to keep the Somerdale plant in Keynsham when it made the pledge last year.
He said the company was aware of Cadbury’s plans to close the plant and move some production to Poland.
But he said that with the combined production of both Kraft and Cadbury, the US company felt that the plant could, in fact, remain open.
Only when Kraft found out later that Cadbury had already spent tens of millions of pounds kitting out its factory in Poland, Mr Firestone said, did Kraft decide that it had no choice but to renege on its commitment to Somerdale.