Press Report : Mandelson calls on Phoenix Four to show some humility

Birmingham Post, 11th September, 2009

Lord Mandelson said the Phoenix Four had “brass neck nerve” to describe the report as a witch-hunt and urged them now to “do the decent thing” and formally disqualify themselves from holding any future directorships.

Phoenix Four: John Towers, Nick Stephenson, John Edwards, Peter Beale

 

In an interview with the Press Association, the Business Secretary said: “I think the Directors are showing brass neck nerve in the light of these findings of a very thorough and painstaking report to suggest that it is a whitewash or a witch-hunt, when the finger of blame and responsibility points so clearly at them.

“I think, in the circumstances, they would be better offering some humility and even an apology to those who lost their jobs and the creditors who lost their money as a result of this company’s collapse.”

Lord Mandelson rejected the former Rover Directors’ suggestions that the Government “bungled” the last chance to save the company, and that Gordon Brown had questions to answer about his role as chancellor in the decision not to provide a bridging loan.

“I think what is clear from the way in which these Directors have spoken today is that they would say anything and do anything to cover up their own mistakes,” he said. “Even when the company collapsed, one of the Directors bought computer software – Evidence Eliminator – to remove the evidence from his own computer of what had happened in the company.

“Another Director lied to a select committee of the House of Commons, another Director gave misleading information to Companies House. I am afraid that they have nowhere to turn and there is no point in them trying to shift the burden of responsibility in any direction except themselves.

I think, in the circumstances, they would be better offering some humility and even an apology to those who lost their jobs and the creditors who lost their money as a result of this company’s collapse…  I think what they should do is go to Companies House and voluntarily disqualify themselves from acting as a Director in future. If they don’t, I shall start proceedings in the courts, but it would save time and effort and taxpayers’ money if they could do it voluntarily.” Lord Mandelson, Business Secretary

“I think what they should do is go to Companies House and voluntarily disqualify themselves from acting as a Director in future. If they don’t, I shall start proceedings in the courts, but it would save time and effort and taxpayers’ money if they could do it voluntarily.”

Lord Mandelson said the completion of the inquiry should mean that funds held in Rover’s employee trust fund should now be freed to help workers who lost their jobs. “What I would like to see is the employee trust fund that was set up, which contains money that should have been disbursed already to them, now being opened up and the money distributed,” he said.

“The Directors have hidden behind this inquiry now for four years in not allowing this trust money to be used. I hope they don’t drag their feet any longer and allow that money to go to where it properly belongs, which is with the former employees of Rover.”

Lord Mandelson said it would have been improper for him to attempt to require the inquiry to report any quicker than it did. “Of course, I am never happy for a report to take so long and cost so much, but equally I can’t interfere and say ‘you can only have so much money and you can only take so long’,” he said. “It would be quite improper for me to do that. Remember, they are covering an inquiry period that spanned five years, hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper had to be gone through and very many interviews by these Inspectors.

“They have produced their report. They have reached their conclusions. They have pointed the finger of responsibility, I believe, where it is deserved. I hope the Directors now will do the decent thing and disqualify themselves as Directors in the future.”

Unfortunately, this report does not shed enough light on the Government’s undoubted involvement in brokering the deal in the first place and failing to realise that the project was heading for disaster. I can understand why Peter Mandelson was so reluctant for this report to come out because it reminds us of this whole sorry episode, from which Government ministers do not emerge with any credit.” Ken Clarke MP, Shadow Business Secretary

Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke MP said: “The Inspectors quite rightly criticise the Phoenix Four and their Chief Executive, who seem to have enriched themselves at a time when MG Rover workers were losing their jobs.

“It is a pity that the Inspectors did not think that the scope of the inquiry enabled them to go more precisely into the Government’s role in the selection of the Phoenix bid. It is regrettable that they did not investigate the possible misuse of taxpayers’ money when ministers put in £6.5 million in the middle of an election campaign to keep the company going beyond polling day.

“Unfortunately, this report does not shed enough light on the Government’s undoubted involvement in brokering the deal in the first place and failing to realise that the project was heading for disaster. I can understand why Peter Mandelson was so reluctant for this report to come out because it reminds us of this whole sorry episode, from which Government ministers do not emerge with any credit.”

[Source: Birmingham Post]

Posted in: AROnline News, MG Rover
Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

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  1. Andrew McCheyne says:

    The one second from left looks a bit dodgy…

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