Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative Shadow Business Secretary, explains why he believes the report into the collapse of MG Rover should be published now
“People want to know what happened”. It was May 2005, and the then Trade and Industry Secretary, now the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson was unequivocal. With thousands of jobs lost at MG Rover, it was in the public interest that a full investigation be completed “as quickly as possible and in a form which will enable the report to be made public”.
More than four years later, the public are still waiting for answers. The findings of the official inquiry were delivered to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson almost a month ago, but publication has been delayed indefinitely, pending an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office. While it is essential that allegations of wrongdoing are investigated, I hold an unworthy suspicion that a criminal investigation is a convenient way for the Government to kick this issue into the long grass a while longer. Conveniently, the findings are now unlikely to be made public until after the next General Election.
All this matters not just because we need to know what happened at the firm, but because thousands of former MG Rover workers are still waiting to receive money owed to them. Following the sale of MG Rover’s assets, millions were set aside in a Trust Fund for workers who lost their jobs, but cannot be paid out until the report is published. In a bitter twist, the amount being denied to workers – £16 million – is exactly the same as the amount spent by the Government on the never-ending inquiry. As the workers wait, the costs to the taxpayer continue to mount.
With other car companies in trouble, it is vital that we learn from the mistakes which were made at MG Rover. Many questions remain unanswered.
Even with a criminal investigation ongoing, it is difficult to see how further secrecy and delays can be justified. Four years after they lost their jobs, workers deserve to be paid what is owed to them.