Reports that the Government is to announce a separate fraud investigation into the collapse of MG Rover are as alarming as they are frustrating for the 6,500 workers who lost their jobs at Longbridge.
If the fraud investigation is confirmed by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, it will inevitably delay still further the publication of the Government inquiry’s findings, more than four years after MG Rover hit the buffers.
More pertinently for the ex-workers, potential payments of four-figure sums from the MG Rover Trust Fund will also be delayed whilst the Phoenix Four wait to see if the inquiry report identifies further creditors.
Meanwhile, around £16 million lies untouched in the MG Rover Trust Fund bank account, money which could be used now to ease the plight of thousands of former workers.
The Phoenix Four have, predictably, chosen to lie low pending the report’s publication. But they are only reflecting public opinion when they break cover to suggest that this battle-weary Government is stalling further by ordering a fresh fraud investigation.
The ex-directors, quite rightly, make the point that no suggestion of fraud was made by administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers at any stage of their own lengthy investigations.
Nobody can prejudge whether fraud has, or has not, taken place. Only a full Serious Fraud Office inquiry can make that decision, but it is pertinent to ask why it has taken more than four years – and around £16m – to discover the possibility of potential fraud.
The whole saga is reminiscent of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, the interminable law suit which Dickens dreamt up in his masterpiece Bleak House, with only the lawyers triumphant by the end. But, if the Phoenix Four’s accusations are proven correct and the Government is indulging in deliberate delaying tactics ahead of the General Election, then voters should bear that in mind when they finally cast their verdicts at the poll.