Jon Walker, Birmingham Post, 11th August, 2009
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson faced demands for the immediate publication of a long-awaited report into the collapse of MG Rover after it was revealed the Birmingham carmaker’s bosses will escape prosecution.
The Serious Fraud Office announced it had ruled out a criminal investigation into the management of the Longbridge-based manufacturer, which collapsed in 2005 with the loss of 6,000 jobs. It meant the last obstacle in the way of publishing the results of a detailed inquiry into the firm’s failure had been removed.
Labour MP Richard Burden (Lab., Northfield), whose constituency includes the Longbridge site, called on the Department for Business to publish the report immediately. However, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills insisted it still could not release its findings for another four weeks – and has now said September 11 will be the release date.
It had a legal obligation to allow witnesses who gave evidence to the inquiry to see the findings in advance, a spokesman for the Department said. The report is expected to be released on September 11.
Former Rover workers have already waited more than four years to learn what happened, after the official Government inquiry dragged on at a cost to taxpayers of £16 million.
Although the Inspectors presented their findings to Lord Mandelson last month, he ruled that they would not be published – and instead would be referred to the Serious Fraud Office.
Conservatives have accused the Government of deliberately stalling publication until after the next election. They claim that Labour must share the blame for Rover’s collapse, arguing that Ministers encouraged the firm’s former owner, BMW, to sell it to the Directors known as the Phoenix Four for £10. The Phoenix Four have promised that former workers will receive a share of a £16 million trust fund once the official inquiries are over.
I am really pleased that the SFO have made a prompt decision. My hope is that his now clears the way for the Inspectors’ report to be published. It is an inquiry that took more than four years to complete at significant cost to the taxpayer. It is very important we know what they looked into and what conclusions they reached.” Richard Burden MP
Lord Mandelson said: ‘It was important to have clarity on whether or not this was a case that the SFO should be investigating. The workers who lost their jobs and the creditors who were owed nearly £1.3 billion by the collapse deserved no less. They have waited a long time to see the findings of the Report and the way is now clear for us to publish. Today we are setting out the timetable and arrangements.”
Mr Burden said: ‘I am really pleased that the SFO have made a prompt decision. My hope is that his now clears the way for the Inspectors’ report to be published. It is an inquiry that took more than four years to complete at significant cost to the taxpayer. It is very important we know what they looked into and what conclusions they reached.
‘People in the West Midlands, and particularly those who lost their jobs, need to know the answers. The decision of the SFO will now also clear the way for the trust fund to make the payments that were promised back in 2005. Personally I am not convinced payments could not have been made before, but there is certainly no reason not to make them now.”
A spokesman for the Serious Fraud Office said: ‘A small team of Serious Fraud Office investigators studied the report and made recommendations to the SFO’s Director, Richard Alderman. He read the recommendations, read the report itself and took advice from the SFO General Counsel, Vivian Robinson, QC, and an external opinion also from eminent lawyer, Clare Montgomery QC. The Director then made the decision not to initiate a criminal investigation. As the Inspectors’ report has not been made public, the SFO is unable to go into detail about the reasons for its decision.”
[Source: Birmingham Post]
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