At first glance it might seem that with the country’s carmakers pleading with the Government for money to keep themselves afloat we are back in the bad old days of the 1970s.

That was the decade that saw millions and millions of tax pounds pumped into ill-fated attempts to create a world-class automotive industry out of the wreck called British Leyland.

Weak management, bad cars and nihilistic union militancy all ensured that the money was wasted.

So what is different today? To start with, Britain really does have a world-class car industry these days, albeit one largely owned by overseas corporations.

It is lean and well managed; it produces some of the world’s best cars, and invests heavily in innovation and training and skills.

It is a vital component of the value added industrial sector that Britain needs to stimulate and develop – quickly – now that the financial services industry has revealed itself as an empty shell.

Which is why it is essential that the Government stops havering and gives the automotive industry the cash backing it needs if it is survive these unprecedented times.

This is not a case of failing companies flailing about for a temporary lifeline as, arguably, would have been the case with MG Rover in 2005.

Jaguar Land Rover, as we report today, is widely recognised not just as a vital element of West Midland manufacturing but also as a jewel in the crown of UK automotive engineering.

Under Tata’s ownership it is a well run business with, significantly, all key decisions flowing from its boardroom at Gaydon, Warwickshire. It is well capitalised and has some excellent products in its portfolio with more to come.

But the problems it faces are far bigger than any one single company can overcome on its own.

Financial contagion is spreading throughout the world at the speed of a ‘flu pandemic. Car buyers everywhere are deferring purchases and even those that want to buy new models are finding it virtually impossible to raise the finance.

On top of that, even viable manufacturers and their suppliers are being stonewalled by banks when it comes to renewing or topping up their working capital facilities.

Government aid for the “industry of industries”, one that employs 850,000 UK residents and contributes more than £500billion to the economy, whatever form it takes, is surely a no-brainer.

Are you listening, Lord Mandelson?