The row between former MG Rover directors and Lord Mandelson has escalated amid claims the ex-Longbridge bosses could face disqualification as directors.
The Business Secretary appeared to jump the gun yesterday by questioning the fitness of the Phoenix Four – John Towers, Nick Stephenson, John Edwards and Peter Beale – to act as directors in future.
His comments, ahead of publication of the Government report into MG Rover, triggered an angry response from the executives, who were told yesterday that the Serious Fraud Office would not be undertaking a full inquiry into the collapse of Longbridge.
The SFO decision finally clears the path for publication on September 11 of the long awaited report into the demise of the car firm, launched four years ago at a cost of £16 million to taxpayers.
The prospect of disqualification for the Phoenix Four emerged after a Department for Business spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has been advised that there are good grounds to bring disqualification proceedings. These would be civil rather than criminal proceedings.”
A spokesman for the Phoenix Four said: “People are more likely to ask if Mandelson and some of his colleagues are fit to conduct themselves as ministers. After all, this is a man who had to resign twice from the Government in very mysterious circumstances.”