By Larry Elliott
Rover Group chairman, Mr Graham Day, apologised to an all-party committee of MPs yesterday for misleading them over plant closures and the loss of 4,900 jobs arising, out of the takeover of the state-owned car maker by British Aerospace. Mr Day was given a rough ride by the back-bench trade and industry committee, which accused him of concealing the plans to shut Cowley South, near Oxford, and the Llanelli pressings plant in South Wales when he appeared in May.
At the earlier hearing, he told Labour MP Mr Doug Hoyle that there were no plans for plant closures. Two months later – and within a week of the BAe deal being approved by the European Commission — Rover announced plans to shut the two plants to reduce over-capacity.
Called back to give further evidence, Mr Day said he had not intended to mislead the committee, and blamed Brussels for the confusion. He said he had been aware of over-capacity before becoming Rover boss in 1986, but had no specific plans for closures when he gave evidence in May. However, the EC made the closure of parts of Rover Group capacity a condition of allowing the BAe takeover to go ahead.
“I was pushed into making decisions earlier than I thought was good for the business,” he said.
“I very much regret that my answer gave rise to. any misleading conclusions by this committee”, he said during 90 minutes of questioning. “I apologise if that, was the case”.
At the earlier hearing Mr Day failed to answer a question about the future of Cowley South, an ommission he explained yesterday by saying “my mind was down the track of the preceding question”.
The current intention was to close Llanelli in early 1990, but there was no date for Cowley South. He said there were no-plans for further plant closures.