The MP representing Longbridge, former home of MG Rover, is locked in a bitter row with political rivals after he failed to attend a Commons statement about the carmaker.
Richard Burden (Lab Northfield), whose constituency includes the Longbridge site, missed Monday’s statement by Business Minister Ian Lucas – because he was stuck in traffic.
The MP had been on his way to Heathrow, where he was due to fly to Lebanon, when it was announced that Rover was to be discussed in the House of Commons. Although he turned his car around and missed his flight, he arrived back at Westminster too late to hear Mr Lucas confirm that an official report into the collapse of the carmaker four years ago had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.
Instead, Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart (Lab) apologised to the Commons for Mr Burden’s absence.
She said: “May I pass on the apologies of my honourable friend the Member for Birmingham Northfield, who would be here if he were not stuck in traffic on his way to the House?”
Mr Burden was condemned by Keely Huxtable, the Conservative Party spokesman for Northfield, who will fight the seat for the Tories at the next election.
She said: “It is nothing short of shameful that the Labour MP for Northfield failed to attend the Parliamentary debate on July 6 concerning the involvement of the Serious Fraud Squad in MG Rover. Given the amount of time he has spent out of the country recently, one has to wonder where Northfield is in his list of priorities.”
Mr Burden had been due to travel to Lebanon along with fellow MPs, to meet politicians elected in the country’s recent elections, as part of a visit organised by the All-Party Lebanon Group.
The statement took place at short notice because Ministers had not initially planned to speak about Rover in the Commons.
But Conservative Shadow Business Secretary tabled an “urgent question” in the morning, forcing Ministers to come to the Commons and issue a statement at 3.30 that same afternoon.
Mr Burden said: “These comments from the Tories are the worst kind of political sniping, at a time when we should be focused on trying to get this matter resolved and the report published. I have been working on issues involving MG Rover just about every week of recent years.
“I have spoken to Ministers, I have written to the Prime Minister and I have written to the Serious Fraud Office stressing how important it is that this report is published quickly.
“To be sniping like that is a bit pathetic, frankly.”
Mr Burden is known at Westminster for taking an interest in the Middle East in his role as Chair of the All-Party Palestine Group.
However, he is also chair of the All-Party Motor Group, which focuses on the automotive industry in the UK, and of the West Midlands Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into problems facing the region’s economy.
News that the official inquiry into Rover had delivered its findings to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson emerged two weeks ago in an answer to a written Parliamentary question tabled by Mr Burden.