The Phoenix Four have accused Midland peer Lord Bhattacharyya of “frequent and persistent” attacks on MG Rover in an extraordinary broadside aimed at one of the UK’s most influential car industry figures.
In the newly released MG Rover Dossier issued by PR advisers Media House International, the four former Longbridge bosses savage the world-renowned Indian peer for allegedly briefing against MG Rover throughout the Phoenix regime.
But Professor Bhattacharyya hit back fiercely - and said he had never criticised the Phoenix Four or MG Rover in the press.
The dossier says of the peer: “In a question to the Department of Trade and Industry in March 2007, lawyers for the Phoenix directors asked officials to confirm the accuracy or otherwise of press reports that Professor Bhattacharyya, a key Government adviser during the MG Rover crisis, had donated £1.3 million to Labour Party funds, including direct donations made to Patricia Hewitt’s election campaign.
“We asked ‘Please advise the dates on which Professor Lord Bhattacharyya made these alleged donations. Please advise the date on which Professor Lord Bhattacharyya received his life peerage.
“An official replied: ‘Lord Bhattacharyya received his peerage on June 9 2004. The DTI does not hold information re donations.”
In a later reference to the peer’s Warwick Manufacturing Group receiving a £5 million grant from the DTI, the dossier said Professor Bhattacharyya as he was then made substantial contributions to the Labour Party.
It said: “Professor Bhattacharyya is an advisor to the DTI and also an advisor to Ford, and was a persistent and vocal critic of MG Rover.
“Throughout its life, Professor Bhattacharyya - a DTI advisor - and his staff made frequent and persistent attacks on the company, either through public statements or press briefings.”
But the Midland peer, knighted for services to industry, strenuously refuted many of the Phoenix Four’s claims.
He said: “I have never been an adviser to Ford, I have never been an adviser to the DTI. The matters between me and the Labour Party are between me and the Labour Party.
“Party donations are on the party website - there is no point in me commenting on that. I supported the party long, long before my peerage.
“As far as the allegation about Patricia Hewitt is concerned, if I am a member of the Labour Party, if I support the Labour Party, it is entirely up to me, not up to MG Rover to say what is right or wrong.
“I have never commented on their (MG Rover’s) performance or any such thing, mainly because as a Labour peer, I didn’t think it was job to do so. I didn’t want to affect employment in the Midlands, I was very concerned about that.
“What I cannot understand is that I have never been their critic in the press. I have been a critic under Parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords.”
Professor Bhattacharyya claimed the Phoenix Four had held a long-running grudge against him. “I think their grudge is basically that I did not wholeheartedly go out in public and say how fantastic MG Rover was.
“As an academic, I cannot do that. I have to be credible. I was extremely supportive that the company should survive.
“When they took over, they cut out all the research that BMW were doing at the university, they stopped everything - even the equipment, they took it away.
“Did I say anything in the press at the time? No.”