Shadow business secretary Ken Clarke has said he is “very sceptical” about the governments claim they could not yet publish the results of the crucial report on the collapse of MG Rover.
And he attacked the Government’s approach to supporting Midlands manufacturers, saying the piecemeal plans to support businesses could end up ruining the industry.
Last week the Government passed on the report into the collapse of MG Rover – which has taken four years to compile, at a cost to the taxpayer of £16 million – to the Serious Fraud Office.
This provoked fury from former workers at Longbridge, who are barred from accessing a compensation fund set up after the collapse until the inquiry is formally completed. Mr Clarke accused the Government of using the SFO referral to “kick the issue into the long grass” until after the next election.
The Government said it had no option but to take legal advice and pass on the matter.
But speaking to The Birmingham Post after the quarterly Birmingham Chamber of Commerce council meeting yesterday, Mr Clarke said: “I’m very sceptical about it.
“If there was any question of fraud it should have been referred years ago. The inspectors could have referred it any time.
“I’m aware that lots of the ex-workers might get compensation from this trust fund if we could only get this wretched enquiry published.” About 6,000 MG Rover workers made redundant in 2005 have been left in limbo over compensation as the report delayed payments from a £16 million trust fund which was set up to benefit former Rover staff.
Former directors of Phoenix Venture Holdings said they were setting up the fund using money raised from Phoenix assets. But it cannot be distributed while those assets are under investigation.
Mr Clarke said the handling of the JLR collapse was in contrast with the Government’s refusal to put money into the struggling Jaguar Land Rover, claiming there was not a joined-up strategy for protecting the sector.
He said: “I was never clear why the Government chose this consortium [Phoenix]. I thought that the then secretary of state’s decision to lend the industry millions was a disgraceful waste of public money just before a general election.
“I prefer supporting sectors of industry and not individual companies. In the car industry I’m most worried about the supply chain of all the big well-known manufacturers.
“Support should be given to the credit arm of the companies to enable them to offer good terms for hire purchase schemes and loans. Lord Mandelson at one time supported that but couldn’t get the Treasury to agree.
“What we have seen is for months is that he’s talked about helping the car industry and produced nothing.”