The announcement that MG Rover had called in the administrators was greeted initially with sadness, anger and confusion.

The first announcement of the company calling in the receivers was given by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt at a news conference in central London at just before ten last night.


Don't miss 'MG Rover: Past, Present and Future' - a special 20 page supplement published with Saturday's Birmingham Post.


Julie Kirkbride, the MP for Bromsgrove, and other Tories accused the Government of making a premature announcement and said it was not up to Ministers to make a statement about a private company.

But a spokesman for Ms Hewitt said later that John Towers, chairman of MG Rover's owner, Phoenix Venture Holdings, had telephoned the Minister at 9.20pm, and again 20 minutes later, telling her that MG Rover was going to be calling in the receivers and that an announcement was being made immediately.

The spokesman said Mr Towers also telephoned Tony Woodley, general secretary of the T&G union, to give him the same news.

MG Rover then released a statement at 10.40pm confirming it had asked PwC to "accept engagements to advise the board of directors on the current position of the company".

Ms Kirkbride, whose constituency includes part of the Longbridge plant, said: "What right has the Government to announce that a private company has gone into administration when the directors themselves have made no such statement?

"The handling of the crisis at Rover has been irresponsible and shambolic and undermines all the hard work of the people who have invested their lives in working for the company."

During last night ' s announcement, Ms Hewitt insisted the Government had done everything it could to try and help MG Rover to secure a deal with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

"Everyone recognised that a partnership with SAIC was critical to MGR's future. That is why MGR, the Government, and the trade unions have been working tirelessly round-the-clock to secure this deal," she said.

"In the end, SAIC made it clear that they were not confident about the future solvency of MG Rover, and therefore there was no reasonable prospect of a deal.

"The Government stood ready to issue bridging finance of over #100 million to help, but without a deal there was no possibility of a bridging loan. SAIC, for their part, indicating that bridging loan finance would not have solved their concerns.

"All parties have agreed that we must now give our full support to the workers and their families, and the suppliers and communities affected."

Ms Hewitt was asked if, despite the brave words, it meant the end of car manufacturing at Longbridge after 100 years.

She replied: "We have done everything possible, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, myself.

"We sent a team of officials to Shanghai last week, to try to ensure the success of this deal; we have already through, Customs and Excise, extended help of #25 million through a VAT deferral to the company, we have done everything possible.

"What we will now do is work with the unions, with the administrator, with all concerned, to try to secure, even in these difficult circumstances, a future for car manufacturing in Longbridge."