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Why didn't MG Rover's inspectors call in cops?

Robert Peston | 08:10 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

It's been bugging me for 48 hours so I have to let it out.

For more than four years a top QC and a leading forensic accountant have been investigating what happened at MG Rover between the moment it was taken over by the Phoenix Four in 2000 and its demise in 2005.

Longbridge factory, Birmingham

The professional-services meter has been ticking over for more than 1200 working days, so the taxpayer has been presented with a bill of more than £16m in respect of their diligent labours.

For that money - and on the basis of their sparkling CVs - it's not unreasonable to assume that they're better qualified than most to spot prima facie evidence of a crime.

So why, in all those years of probing MG Rover, didn't they call in the Serious Fraud Office - or recommend that the Business Department (which used to be the DTI) bring in the SFO?

Apart from anything else, I am told that the Business Department received very regular updates on the progress of the investigation.

Why was it that only after the Business Department received their finished report on 11 June that the First Secretary, Peter Mandelson, determined that the SFO should be asked to investigate whether there's been a criminal act?

More than that, on a reading of the Proceeds of Crime Act, one of the inspectors - Gervase MacGregor of the accountants BDO Stoy Hayward - would actually have been obliged to bring in the police just as soon as he smelled something untoward.

That said, a senior lawyer tells me there's a convention that POCA is suspended for inspectors - which is a bit odd, but there you go.

Anyway, I assume there is a reasonable explanation for why Mr Mandelson felt it necessary to bring in the SFO, but that Mr MacGregor and his QC colleague, Guy Newey, didn't do so at an earlier date.

But of course it's impossible to work out what that might be, because we're not allowed to see the inspectors' report.

And we're not allowed to see the inspectors' report because Mr Mandelson has passed the case to the SFO.

Which is almost a logical paradox of the kind that's designed to make us go batty if we reflect on it too long.

What does seem unsatisfactory is that taxpayers have spent a colossal sum trying to understand more about why a major employer collapsed and yet we remain none the wiser.

It's worth remembering that the failure of MG Rover represented the end of volume car making by British-owned manufacturers.

MG Rover's demise represented the death knell for an industrial policy of propping up an indigenous car industry that went back decades. Even at the end, this government engaged in frantic, fatuous efforts to prop up the business.

Were MG Rover's final, inglorious death throes the consequence of fraud by the Phoenix Four, the quartet who bought the business (the Phoenix Four deny any wrongdoing)?

Did it stem from their incompetence? Or were they just battling against insuperable economic odds?

And why, in the spring of 2005, did the government provide short-term financial support but withhold more substantial aid?

Until the SFO has completed its inquiries, we're not going to know.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    So the referral to the SFO looks ever more like a way of kicking uncomfortable facts into touch till after the next election.

  • Comment number 2.

    We've all heard the rumours that it doesn't put the government in a good light so they are delaying it until after the general election. It's such a worry that people think they are witholding things to help their own cause.
    They are shooting themselves in their own feet. This could be the end of Labour for a decade if it's proven they held back important information to help themselves.
    I'm still of the opinion they are gambling with our future. They've learnt from the bankers.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's more sleight of hand by Mandleson. He'll delay findings which are potentially very damaging for the Govrnment by bringing in the SFO. He thinks this might improve Labour's election chances. How sad

  • Comment number 4.

    If they had called in the SFO early, then how would they manage to bill 1200 hours? That new porshe isn't going to pay for itself move up in the trough!

  • Comment number 5.

    This is another event that will stick in the craw, and the more we bleat the less will happen to fix it. I really think this government has no idea how the real world works

  • Comment number 6.

    Any action or decision (curious or otherwise)made by this government is driven by the approaching election. The overiding motive is to improve the chances of Labour surviving, nothing more nothing less. Redundant workers waiting for their pay outs from funds or the country as a whole come a very poor second. Mandleson is a political animal of the first order and is using all the tricks to reach his goal. Before I am accused of bias, I also believe that any government in the same situation as this one (long term in office, broken promises and failures catching them up) would do the same.


  • Comment number 7.

    It's called selective transparency.

  • Comment number 8.

    "What does seem unsatisfactory is that taxpayers have spent a colossal sum trying to understand more about why a major employer collapsed and yet we remain none the wiser."

    Being a taxpayer is always an unsatisfactory experience!!!

    We expect govts to be taken for a ride or get involved in dodgy dealings or with dodgy individuals (birds of a feather...) whenever they attempt to prop something up.

    The banking crisis already has unsatisfactory issues .....taxpayer funding of ex gratia pensions and bonuses to potentially criminally negligent officers.

    No doubt plenty more will be unearthed, but never satisfactorily explained as far as the taxpayer is concerned.

  • Comment number 9.

    Telegraph says they are to delay the Financial overhaul until after the election. Does this government make any decisions or are they too scared. It took GB so long to become PM and now he has been proven to be totally ineffectual.
    Stop treating us like idiots and manage the country. This is what we pay you for GB.

  • Comment number 10.

    "And why, in the spring of 2005, did the government provide short-term financial support but withhold more substantial aid?"

    Because in league with its chums in the City the Govt has been running a strategy of deindustrialising the UK as fast as it can to ensure that the only sector that remains vaguely British is financial services.

  • Comment number 11.

    The problem is that governments spend tax payers money without recourse. None of them would last in business where you have to secure your home for a loan. The government are so deep in the long grass that it is turning into manure!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Perhaps Mandleson was waiting for the MG Rover exhaust pipe to cool down before he and the FSA had their way with its fat catalytic converter , back box and silencer !

    Its amazing how skilled these pierats are at prostituting the efforts of MP's

  • Comment number 13.

    During the period of the battle between Phoenix and Alchemy I had the dubious pleasure of seeing to the visits of various secretaries of state including Peter Mandelson and Stephen Byers. It was very clear at the time their main objective was damage limitation to the party rather than efforts to support Longbridge and the 20,000 or so jobs which depended upon its existence. Both Secretaries of State saw it as most important that they were pictured meeting the workforce on the factory floor. This they did - for as long as it took to get the photograph and video clip - then they left. Mandelson is simply employing the same tactics again.

  • Comment number 14.

    Maybe, just maybe MG Rover's demise is having an impact on the sale of Vauxall and what it is about to cost the government in its offer to make loans or loan guarantees to help push through the sale of Vauxhall. By further discrediting MG Rover's owners it may, just maybe, help Vauxall. Then again maybe Vauxhall has its own "Phoenix Four" on the horizon and this is a warning shot to say "you must behave or else".

  • Comment number 15.

    The unpalatable truth, which no-one here has mentioned, is that WE caused the collapse of Rover. We didn't buy their cars in sufficient numbers to make them a viable business. I can include myself in this blame, I've never owned or even driven a Rover car.

    If the British car-buyer had bought Rover cars in large quantities then they wouldn't have folded, simple as that. So whilst we can all cast suspicion around as to why it took so long to get to this point, or further suspicion about why Milord Mandelson has punted it to the SFO, we need never have been here in the first place if we'd collectively supported the last large-scale British owned car maker by buying their products. There's the real issue. How many of those who now lament or complain so loudly went out and bought a Rover to show their support for British-owned car making?


    This wilful blindness to our own part in events has been on display as part of the credit crunch. Who caused it? The greedy bankers? Well why not blame them, they're an easy target.

    And if we can scapegoat someone else then it means that we don't have to look too carefully at how WE greedily swallowed every credit that was proferred to us, ramping up our debt to unsustainable levels. How we willing bought houses at ever-inflating prices, at ridiculous multiples of our income. How we loaded our multiple credit cards each to their limit. It all had to be repaid at some point, which was overlooked by all parties in the rush both to lend and to spend.

    It really is selective blindness as to cause and effect. When the bust inevitably came (although the current PM said he had put an end to that kind of thing) those who were most heavily laden would be the first ones to fall, producing an unstoppable tidal wave. The cause was the readiness to give credit and the willingness to accept it.

    WR.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Until the SFO has completed its inquiries, we're not going to know."

    So, that will cost several more Million Pounds and ensure the nasty smell is kept under wraps until the next con (sorry, election campaign) has been completed.

  • Comment number 17.

    Assuming every one of 1200 working days is spend full-time on this investigation, then it costs £13,333 per day - only a little less than the annual average UK income.

  • Comment number 18.

    Unless SFO does stand for serious farce office, from a distance there didnt seem a point in reporting the case to them. It does seem a case of incompetence rather than conspiracy and Im not convinced that it is necessary to take an approach that the SFO should eliminate possible criminal activity as the causes in order to establish it was out and out rubbish management

    Actually I am very concerned though that there is a convention for an act of law to be suspended for inspectors. Surely it is vital that they are scrutinised to be acting within the law rather than above it. Even if this does limit fees that can be earned or upset an old boy.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    "Which is almost a logical paradox of the kind that's designed to make us go batty if we reflect on it too long."

    Nothing logical or paradoxical about the whole situation !! The suspension of the POCA is no different from the suspension of the Monopolies Act during the Northern Rock debacle !! The investigators were probably told that they were to do nothing until the final report was submitted and a decision made with regard to their investigation(s). Meanwhile, they are handsomely (16 millions' worth) rewarded for their compliance with orders. When the report didn't meet the approval of Bendy Mandy, he kicked it into the long grass by whistling up the SFO.

    I seriously suspect that the report will point to more political machinations than "real" crime !! This bunch gives criminals a bad name !!

  • Comment number 21.

    Whether or not the Phoenix Four were shrewd enough to manage such a large business in such a competitive environment can be debated, but those who worked closely with John Edwards would not question his commitment to it. Working 70+ hours most weeks to the detriment of his health, John had Rover blood running through his veins. I thank him for doing what he could to secure the future of my job and many, many more. I'm sure we will never know the truth behind what happens, but I'd be confident the politics were much murkier than any business dealings.

  • Comment number 22.

    09:35am on 07 Jul 2009, White_Rat

    "And if we can scapegoat someone else then it means that we don't have to look too carefully at how WE greedily swallowed every credit that was proferred to us......"

    ------------------------------------

    Publishing the report isn't about scapegoats (although many will try to score points from it). We need to know what happened with MG Rover so that we can learn and do a better job when something like this occurs in the future.

    By the way, I have owned an MG and having done so can fully understand why many others would not want to.

  • Comment number 23.

    Robert, I have been one of your fiercer critics over the last year or so, I must confess your most recent blog sheds light on the reason Brown chose to restore Mandelson to office.

    The observer might see this as a Mandelsonesque rather than a Brownonion action. After all Mendelson is the whipping boy totally disregarded as a person of integrity by the public, well able to deflect missiles aimed at Brown and give Brown the space and time needed to plot.

    Just answer this question, why would a forensic accountant, paid per diem, want to introduce the SFO sooner than his hand is forced. Mendelson has made the most of the situation presented to him by a representative of the finanacial establishment.

    This one defintely has a Brown smell.

  • Comment number 24.

    My impression is that the unelected first secretary referred the case simply to hide the details of the damning report until after the election.

    If this is the case, there are several issues:

    - The SFO has once again been manipulated by government and appears to be a tool for government.
    - Gordon Brown's promised transparency has again deteriorated into farce.
    - In a democracy, why is Peter Mandelson allowed to hold such a senior position? In the US, the Vice President has to run to for office and the secretary of state has to be confirmed by the elected houses of congress.

  • Comment number 25.

    "And why, in the spring of 2005, did the government provide short-term financial support but withhold more substantial aid?"

    Didn't we have an election in 2005?

    Am I being sinical in thinking that labour spent 200million before the election to save Rover only to let it crash and die once they were back in power?

  • Comment number 26.

    Robert will you, in four years time, be asking why the SFO were not been called in to investigate the collapse of RBS, Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley.

  • Comment number 27.

    If Mr Plod has been brought in without good reason then I trust the officials concerned will be charged with wasting police time.

    Furthermore if there is evidence that an arrestable offence has been committed then one would hope that a charge would be forthcoming leading to a trial rather than the usual CPS climbdown.

    If this is a long grass job then I suggest the next government purchase an industrial lawnmower; preferably one made in the Midlands if such is possible.

    I hope we do not have to wait four years for the first bankers to appear at the Old Bailey.

  • Comment number 28.

    What ever happened to Stephen Byres in this mess for surely he was the initiator of the terminal phase of this disaster. I am sure that others will remember his meddling with the John Moulton of Alchemy Partners offer. Viewed from afar Alchemy always looked a lot better than the so called Phoenix Four. Its tremendously sad that nothing viable has been saved. The only winners are the Chinese who got the brands and the manufacturing line, the usual 'consultants' who got their fees and the awful four who allegedly did very very well out of. I share Robert's angst over the latest turn in events. What started with Byres ended with Mandleson so what chance for transparency. We taxpayers who have paid the bill will get nothing. God help us if we continue to think that we can give up manufacturing and let the Chinese or whoever do it all.

  • Comment number 29.

    17. Bob's report does make it sound like there were just two people involved but obviously there were whole teams involved in working around this - not saying they would be worth anywhere near that money but its slightly more than one person billing all that money.

    So effectively we get a team of forensic accounts in and then ignore their findings. Having known some of the team who were involved in the investigation here I know that (at a workforce level) the work they performed was without political bias and done following standard professional practices. As for the outcome and the final report, well who knows until it becomes available...

  • Comment number 30.

    re dotsanddashes comment - By the way, I have owned an MG and having done so can fully understand why many others would not want to.

    -------------------------------------

    I have owned many Rover and MG cars and simply do not understand his statement. The Rover 75 is one of the most saught after used cars on the market even today. I am tired of those who bang on about the Alegro being bad and Longbridge workers being permanently on strike, blah, blah, blah. There were lots of awful cars at the time of the Alegro and they were made in Europe, Japan and the UK and the Longbridge workers did not lose one hour to industrial action for the last 25 years of their existance. Additionally the working practices at Longbridge were some of the most flexible in Europe and this includes the BMW factories who's management would have dearly liked to have had the same agreements in place.

  • Comment number 31.

    Rover had been a rugby ball for a number of years, passing from ownership to ownership, BMW only bought it to get the Mini brand then kicked it into touch.

    Are Pheonix really the bad guys in all this?

  • Comment number 32.

    end of the day, rover was a poor product with the management, rehashing old cars for cutting costs, look at a similar rover from a few years before phoenix bought it and look at one one build during phoenix reign the quality of whilst not brillaint was better on the earliers ones.

    secondly rover drivers were being ripped off by the dealer network, who sold parts way too expensively, and often sub standard, this for a local car locally built and owned, there was no incentive in owning a rover.

    these are nothing to do with the labour govt, we just like to blame the government for everything, in fact im suffering from constipation at the moment is that the government fault.

    one thing i would say for the govt is the £16 mil spent on the enquiry should ahve instead been poured into rover

  • Comment number 33.

    10:05am on 07 Jul 2009, MadeInCoventry

    -------------------------------------

    Obviously I am wrong in my opinion of MG Rover cars. The most sought after cars and the best working practices in Europe made the company what it is today, a marvellous testimony to the UK car industry.
    I bet BMW are kicking themselves that they didn't pour even more billions into it.

  • Comment number 34.

    15 - White Rat. Absolutely. I've not heard it put better for a long time.

    I saw this coming, sold my house Aug 2007, cleared any debts and put the balance in the bank. Now waiting for prices to plateau to rejoin the fray.

    One point though, I did own a Rover. It was awful, went wrong ever few hundred miles. That's why they weren't bought and why I now drive a Mercedes.

  • Comment number 35.

    I too am very concerned about this but first of all let's just look at the numbers here. £16 million has been spent for 1200 working days roughly to get this report. My basic calculator gives that as around £13,000 per day for this investigation which covers the cost of the QC and his forensic accountant. Yep - a whole year's salary for many per day for these people to compile an 800 page or so report into what went wrong.

    Why didn't the government give the job to a Lord or a committee of Lords to do? Why didn't they give it to a group of university students? Why not give it to some business managers? All of these would have cost a fraction and come to the same result - the company went bust!

    Now Mandelson deciding to call in the SFO smells so significantly that I hope the CPS is involved and has read the report and is able to make a very quick decision if it is 'in the public interest' to prosecute. Nonetheless the findings of the report should not be kept secret as this case could - and should - be held, if there is a case to answer, before one judge. It should not be a trial by jury and therefore the evidence - if there is a case to answer - should be made available to us all. Especially considering WE paid for the whole thing.

    Political embarrassment is not a reason to have the police called in but there is a certain amount of form on this subject from the current government.

    Keep up the good work Robert!

  • Comment number 36.

    While I'm not surprised all the comments suspect political interference (and I'm no supporter / apologist of the current government), isn't there a practical alternative explanation?

    That the investigation has been concluded and the findings handed to the SFO for review and (one hopes) prosecution? Given that the investigation would have to happen anyway, is it a question of whether it was more effective for a group of independent (private) specialists, or the civil servants (SFO) to investigate.

    Given the absence of any high-profile cases or convictions in recent memory, is it the case that british business is generally squeaky-clean, or just that the SFO have failed to successfully do anything?

  • Comment number 37.

    Are you saying that these characters have been charging at an average rate of over £13k per day for the inestimable work they have carried out? Who has controlled their efforts because this is a scandalous amount of money?

  • Comment number 38.

    Crikey Robert

    You must have read my comment (#53 - on your SFO to probe MG Rover collapse, yesterday)......??? Here it is again...

    'Nice one Peter Mandelson and another diversionary tactic. The question of any malfeasance should be why did the government pump taxpayers money into what was a very risky venture (as it turned out)?

    Oh - it was just before the last election, I seem to remember. MG Rover never had a chance because its business plan was never sustainable (read the various evidence available at the time).

    And - oh yes we're now pumping more taxpayer money into Vauxhall (ahead of another general election). And of course we were trying to do the same with LDV (the Mandy connection again) though common sense won out in the end. It seems as though the whole of BERR are working/negotiating free for the auto industry.

    Yes - its very sad that people have/will lose jobs through a continual decline in our car industry though nobody seems to comment on all the small businesses that are/will go under without a shred of government help.

    Contrast the money being pumped into the car industry with the tough line on National Express last week rather than renegotiate the terms. The rail franchise benefits far more taxpayers than either of these two car manufacturers (alongside the franchise income and corporate tax). Mmm.....

    Perhaps it would have been useful if the Government had a strategic plan for the auto industry in the UK given the global overproduction that's been going on for decades.

    No - just a plan to buy more votes through targeted subsidies when its forced to - it doesn't get more corrupt than that..........'

    Peter Mandelson is not called the Prince of Darkness for nothing is he?

    Applying a cynical head like a number of commentators and I do detect one from you...the only reason for the latest wheeze is to delay the report or yet another diversion of attention.

    The really sad (and criminal) thing is that I understand some £16 million earmarked for ex-MG Rover employees cannot be disbursed until closure on this. Just what does this Government stand for apart from treating everybody as fools?

  • Comment number 39.

    The simple truth is the Forensic Accountants could not comprehend the facts presented and would diligently file away the paperwork and charge beaucoup fees. This will be the danger of the new financial regime where upping the level of regulation will have the same token effect of not preventing fraud significantly. Maybe the solution is to train police staff to work inside the offices of big businesses to monitor all operations.

  • Comment number 40.

    All this is about is, to delay giving serious details about the incompetence of Government,until after the election.

    The man who should have called in the police and didnt should be thoroughly investigated also,and his fees should be held until he can prove that he has actually earned them.

    I have absolutely no faith in Peter Mandelson being in charge of this as he was involved in the original decision making.

  • Comment number 41.

    The paradox for any QC or forensic account that is asked to investigate if any wrongdoings have taken place after a business has collapsed is twofold.

    Firstly these people are paid extremely well and by the hour for the work they do and so there is no real incentive for them to complete their work and produce their findings in the shortest possible time.

    Secondly accountants are renowned for sitting on the fence and giving conflicting advice such as, on the one hand it could be this and on the other hand it might be that. Especially if it means criticising professional from within their own ranks who might well have been less than dilligent when passing off previous accounting information.

  • Comment number 42.

    What one tends to forget is that due to government reshuffles etc. Mandelsson has not been a part of this for the four years. Since returning to Government he has had a number of other more pressing things to do, so it is quite in order that now this has reached the top of his intray he has made a decision. Of course the press and sections of politics will claim "conspiracy", mud slinging is the easiest way to get headlines, I am more concerned that four men took £40M out of the business, maybe that means in the future we should just be prepared to let businesses fail because that £40M would have been better spent on re-skilling the Rover employees.

  • Comment number 43.

    Over £13,000 a day!

    WOW...

    Someone going to investigate the bill for this?

  • Comment number 44.

    Dotsanddashes said - I bet BMW are kicking themselves that they didn't pour even more billions into it.

    The company made £86 million profit the year before BMW bought it. They turned that into a loss. A little research would help your position if it wasn't too rigid.

  • Comment number 45.

    C'mon guys ... are we really trying to find/make a case here for decent, honourable, transparent behaviour on the part of Lord Mandelson and this pitiful, fag-end of a discredited and shameless government?

    Give me a break.

    This is yet another dot in the join-the-dots game where the final picture will be that of the most reprehensible government in modern (if not all) British political history.

    I just hope that you journalists hound the government to death on this one: it stinks, like pretty much everything else emanating from government these days.

    Bring on the General Election.

  • Comment number 46.

    10:31am on 07 Jul 2009, MadeInCoventry

    A little research would help your position if it wasn't too rigid.
    ------------------------------------------

    The point that I am sticking to is that we need to see and learn from the report. The arguments about the cars being sought after and the workling practices being good and the profitability make it all the more perplexing why MG Rover went the way it did. If MG Rover had so much going for it why did the government not fully back a viable company and save a lot of jobs (votes)?
    The SFO trick is making sure there are no embarrassing stories before the election, that doesn't require research.

  • Comment number 47.

    When are the members of this government going to think how the history books will describe them?

  • Comment number 48.

    Maybe the SFO could publish it's findings in record time, say next Friday? That would allow the results to be made public by say Monday of the following week. No one to blame, no scapegoat, thats my bet, just business incompetence,lack of investment bad luck, poor products and better competition, thats all there is to say.

  • Comment number 49.

    £16m spent without anything to show the tax payers at the end of it!
    The figure in itself for a 'report' is staggering. Does not the government shop around for the 'best price' when spending our money - just as any reponsible business would do. Or is it the fact that they have handed out so much money - questionably - over the course of the last few months that another £16m wouldn't make any difference. On another point, those unfortunate people made redundant from MG Rover could really have done with some financial support through this difficult time - I would have preferred thios money to have gone to them. Labour will be voted out at the next election anyway to be replaced by another short term shoddy outfit who won't be listening to the electorate and will no doubt spend further money on other reports to show how incompetent the outgoing government was - great!

  • Comment number 50.

    This situation is now a fog many years after the event .
    It was clear to many in the motor industry in Uk that Rover could not last shortly after the last takeover .This was case of simple economics ( break even numbers versus actual sales) and then were was new model investment to come from ?? The signs and warings to those in the know was widely available at the time in the press but for some reason those in responsible positions in public life chose not to ask questions ( or did they )?
    Feeling sorry for the Rover guys who did give it a go and now wait for their deserts in vain.
    If only the choice had been Honda a few years back when Aerospace inexplicably took control ?????

  • Comment number 51.

    It is interesting that the fate of MG Rover has once again come to the attention of the country.
    As someone who used to live close to the Longbridge factory in Birmingham and knew a number of people who worked in the factory, I know that the take-over by the consortium was welcomed by everyone in the area. Not only did it help the factory to continue producing British made cars, but also provided employment in the area for a number of years.
    The demise of MG Rover was inevitable. It simply could not compete in a highly competive market, especially against the cheaper imports coming from the far-east.
    When the Longbridge factory finally closed there were rumours about how much the directors had taken away with them. When the hard working Longbridge workers were facing the dole and an uncertain future in an area that relied on the income from MG Rover, it appeared that the directors were not exactly hard-up for cash.
    However these were only rumours.
    Robert raises interesting questions about what exactly did go on behind closed doors and why it has taken so long for this investigation to come to the attention of the SFO.
    I'm sure the people of Birmingham would be very interested to hear about why a major employer in the area failed so dramatically.

  • Comment number 52.

    Dotsanddashes said - A little research would help your position if it wasn't too rigid.

    ----------------------------

    I agree with and applaud the point you make. If it helps with the questions you have properly raised you could have a look at a couple of posts at - http://news-vin.blogspot.com/2009/07/longbridge-shame.html

    I simply feel that too many people when they think of Longbridge automatically think that it was the same old place that was brought into disrepute by Robbbo et al.

  • Comment number 53.

    We need to go back to the beginning to see why the FSA have been called in to delay this until after the next election.

    The key labour ministers involved at the time of the BMW pull out were Stephen Byers and Peter Mandelson. Surely how can he be an independent judge now over the cause of the collapse of a company run by people that he and the Labour government put in charge?

    Labour and the unions were very pro Phoenix Four and anti Alchemy at the time BMW pulled out.

    This all came about prior to the 2001 General Election which coincidentally labour won partly due to it sweeping of the polls in Birmingham amongst other manufacturing cities.

    Just prior to the 2005 General Election MG Rover was going under and got a bail out of GBP 100 million to tide it over whilst Shanghai Automotive were supposedly due to buy it.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4422705.stm

    Of course it all subsequently fell over and eventually went to Nanjing Automotive.

    In case you were wondering who was the EU commissioner for trade at the time, yes you have guessed it, Peter Mandelson.

    Now the SFO enquiry will conveniently take this over the next election too!

    The Guardian has an interesting take on all this.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/8593651

  • Comment number 54.

    As far as I'm aware, the main problem with the Pheonix Four takeover was that they had insufficient capital to invest in the scale of R&D that was required to produce a competitive product. Effectively, that meant that they could only delay Rover's demise, rather than prevent it.

  • Comment number 55.

    "It's been bugging me for 48 hours so I have to let it out"

    Robert - it's been bugging me for nearly 38 years - but I'm pleased it's finally dawned on you.

    The Government will do, say and try anything to retain power. It will manipulate, lie, blackmail and start wars in order to retain power. Retaining power is the sole purpose and aim of Government. The people are insignificant compared to this need.

    What's far more concerning is as we realise that the Government cannot stop lying and distorting the truth over such trivial matters......


    .....who still believes all the swine flu deaths are happening where there are 'serious undelying health issues'?

    This is the damage lies do - who can you trust?

    The Rover story is one of a great beast which was allowed to become complacent and lazy, and when it realised it was unable to be the great king it once was - the rest of the jungle flew down and stripped it where it lay.

    A few men, made a lot of money from that deal. The real problem will come if the SFO call foul - but actually all that Pheonix did was 'legitimate business practice'

    Morals vs business morals

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • Comment number 56.

    An UNELECTED Mandelson shows his true colours and strikes again.

    How has Britian (Gordon took the great out ) allowed itself to have an unelected Supreme Commander !

    Is there no legal way the British public can rid ourselves of this unelected President

  • Comment number 57.

    Of course it is all about keeping the story until after the election. Mandleson and the puppet Brown have us for fools. The next General Election will prove them wrong.

  • Comment number 58.

    #47 Blogpolice

    Is there a suitably anodyne, and therefore politically acceptable, term for bunch of crooks?

    The government, in my view, behave like manipulative larcenists snatching handbags in plain sight and then deny they're doing it.

  • Comment number 59.

    The usual trade trick for forensic accountants is to simply put out requests for other people to provide them information, so they don't have to do anything themselves. This is just another form of fraud.

  • Comment number 60.

    MadeinCoventry, thanks for the link.

    Maybe MG Rover should have turned itself into a bank and touted cheap credit into as many households as it could therefore making itself indispencible to the UK economy. Then just sit back whilst creaming as many bonuses and massive salaries it could until the government cheque book came out.
    I am disgusted that the workers (direct and supply chain) are not being given a thought by this government, when will they benefit from the fund that was set up, I believe this is being delayed due to the referral to the SFO? There are many factors that contributed to this sad ending but just watch how government briefings will look to deflect the public view. I hope Mandleson doesn't give another condescending sounbite on the news tonight as I will be forced to throw something at the TV.

  • Comment number 61.

    #47 & #58

    'Is there a suitably anodyne, and therefore politically acceptable, term for bunch of crooks?'


    Um yes, they are commonly known as 'Members of Parliament'....

  • Comment number 62.

    Nothing at all surprising here, only that you Bob, appear surprised at yet another 'Snow Job' This current Shower of a government have done a truly excellent job during the last decade of deminishing what little democracy we had left. That said, they have been very successful in correctly assessing the majority of the electorate as being stupid, who in turn have sat back and accepted the deceit,lies and maladministration with hardly a groan. Sadly the Nation will accept whatever is thrown up by the Rover enquiry, as with Iraq, Dr David Kelly, the Banks and the MP expenses fiasco. The list is endless but not forgetting the the almost criminal sale of our gold reserves at an historical low, a commodity which was then quickly purchased back by the privateers in the Bank of England, at little or no benefit to the taxpayer or the nation and which at today's price may well have saved Rover

    Like the unfortunate employees of Rover, the headlines are soon forgotten and we move on to another debacle to be covered up by yet another 'Snow Job' which will sadly be accepted by the electorate with merely a shrug of the shoulders and total indifference. Whilst not belittling the stress and hardship caused to all those suffering from the loss of Rover, it is but a small chapter in the overall disaster which this Government have brought upon the people of the United Kingdom.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ 59 - wash_wash

    Do you actually know what a forensic accountant does?

    It's interesting that there are quite a lot of comments about the supposed price that the investigators have charged for this (which on the basis of Robert's numbers I don't fully believe - the figures he quotes work out at a charge out rate of around £1,700 an hour which I know isn't correct). Quite funny how you can throw a comment in like that and change the public (or bloggers) perception of an issue (like the comment on bankers bonus's rather than looking at the underlying issues with the relationships between banks/money markets/us etc)

  • Comment number 64.

    dotsanddashes and madeincoventry

    Lets try to settle this one.....it's not really about whether MG / Rover were the best cars, but how the business was run.

    MG/ Rover was the best car maker in Britain, the rover wasn't to everyone's tastes but they sold by the bucket load. However as with all successes complacency creeped in. The same problem is happening with the post Office now and rather than tackle the problem early - Government inherently waits and does nothing unitl the only options are closure / sale.

    I remember shortly after MG / Rover were bought by Pheonix (I think) a set of new MG's appearing on Top Gear - to the acclaim "these cars are great - where have they been hiding them all this time?"

    Sadly it wasn't enough to save the company - but had this action been taken early - by the existing owners (British Aerospace) - then it would not have been thrown to the wolves.

    The fundamental problem with large companies is leadership - the company ran itself and there was no drive to innovate or take it in a new direction when there should have been. Fat sweaty CEO's sit in boardrooms debating around the subject too afraid to stick their neck out for fear of being shot down by a fellow boardmember (if you've been on one - you'll know what I mean).

    The result is a false Economy - The Government refuses to bail out the company because it knows the headlines will be 'Government hands money to x' - whereas letting the plant die means those headlines are lost - although we still pick up the tab with the unemployment benefit.

    I knew a guy who left Rover when the troubles started (got out while he could) - he's now a plasterer, earning less money and not using any of the skills he has with engineering (which Rover trained him in). Surely this is the scandal - the waste. Training people up and then not making sure their skills are utilised. He's gone from being a competent engineer to an average plasterer and society has lost out.

    The problem is not restricted to particular manufacturers - it's the entire industry. The car industry should have been looking for alternative fuelled cars 20 years ago - any company that had would be laughing their socks off now.

    Instead they were encouraged by the oil industry to stick with petrol driven engines - turning their noses up at innovation for the sake of maximum profits now.

    This is another example of the market failing to provide it's function. Where is the need for innovation when you're "making it hand over fist" now?

    Many claims are made that innovation is an invention of the market driven Economy - as we're getting more and more advanced are we not realising this is a myth?

    How does the market price in Global catastrophe? How does the market price in finite resources?

    The answer is it doesn't - we're sitting on the edge of the biggest bear trap ever and I think we're about to find out how bad it can really get...

  • Comment number 65.

    Last entry from writing on the wall -

    I absolutely agree with your comments - basically it's a them and us situation - innovation is the lacky of the monied and only comes to town when the revenues start to consistently drop thus requiring a new take on a product. Why change something that is bringing in money. Of course, this means we the public are being dictated to and manipulated and what is available rather than what should be available - with all the draw backs that brings.

  • Comment number 66.

    I am afraid this blog is typical of the BBC and its deliberate inferring of political wrongdoing without evidence .
    First, financial crime is normally deliberately and carefully concealed it can take a long time to unravel
    second, is it being suggested that Lord Mandelson ,having seen prima facie evidence that requires an SFO enquiry should have not referred this for political reasons i.e fear of this sort of innuendo ,
    third , wittering about not being able to see the inspector's report is typical journalistic nonsense. If there is indeed evidence justifying an SFO investigation publication of the inspector's report would fundamentally prejudice any possibility of prosecution.

    Why cannot the BBC get back to reporting news rather than inventing it ?

  • Comment number 67.

    #4, #17

    The fees charged by BDO (Or the 'Price we all Pay')

    16 million for 1200 days (240 days a year for 5 years - a bit high, but let's leave that.)

    7 1/2 hours a day = 9000 hours - and each hour cost 1778 pounds

    Now this implies, at an average charging rate of between 150 - 300 pounds an hour say an average 200, some 9 staff (the 2000 pound a day rate for the partners will be balanced by a mass of 'accounting 'grunts')

    So this means that the enquiry took 45 man years. Wow! there must have been an awful lot of paperwork (almost an unbelievable lot!) to work through!

    However this charging rate is not atypical and is not unreasonable, for professional services, but nevertheless HMG does have issues in this area. Such as only using a very few of the largest firms of accountants who the pre-qualify and preventing smaller equally well qualified independent accountants from entering the bidding process. I strongly suspect that there are two reasons for this: 1. Because they use their friends they can rely on non-controversial interpretation of the facts and 2: The people who do the buying want jobs with the firms concerned when they leave government etc.

  • Comment number 68.

    Let's get a couple of things straight.

    Two people (a QC and an accountant) are responsible for signing off the inspectors' report. But the work would have been undertaken by a team of people and the bill would have been for the team - not just the two signatories.

    Secondly, the SFO will start where the inspectors left off. They will take the inspectors' report and focus on those parts of it relating to possible criminal offences and they will consider the evidence found by the inspectors. The SFO will not be starting again from square one.

    They should be in a position to determine reasonably swiftly whether it looks like there might be a case to prosecute. If there might be then the SFO will need to reformulate some of the evidence found by the inspectors so that it is suitable to present as evidence to the Crown Court. They may mean, for example, obtaining formal witness statements from various individuals involved.

    The SFO will then need to interview the suspects (under caution, on tape) and put the allegations and evidence to them. This will give the suspects an opportunity to respond and explain their reasons for their actions and describe what they knew (and perhaps more importantly) what they did not know at the time.

    The SFO will then either (i) decide they are satisfied with the explanations and that no offence has taken place, or (ii) decide an offence does appear to have taken place. Then they will consider whether it would be in the public interest to prosecute. This is by means a foregone conclusion, but let's assume they decide that it would be in the public interest.

    Having reached that stage they may consider opening 'plea discussions' with the accused (this procedure has some similarity to the US system of 'plea bargaining' - and some important differences).

    Ultimately a decision may be made to charge the suspects and the matter will then go for trial.

    All of this takes a little time!

    A key question the SFO will ask themselves is, "Is there evidence of dishonesty which a jury would be likely to find convincing?"

    If the answer to that is "No" then there will be no prosecution.

    Dishonesty involves the suspected individual behaving in a way that he realises is dishonest by the standard of ordinary and decent people. Finding evidence that the suspect himself realised that he was behaving dishonestly is not always easy (cf R v Ken Dodd, R v Richard Madeley, both of whom were, quite properly, acquitted of dishonesty).

    Had the SFO been called in previously would they not have said to the inspectors, "You finish your investigation and tell us what you find - we can then take it on from there"?

    Ashill

  • Comment number 69.

    I will shortly be turning my 1992 Rover Sterling in for scrappage, which is worth more than its book value.

    It's the best car I've ever had and there is nothing wrong with it except you can't get parts and the rust is creeping in.

    Another victim of the collapse of our manufacturing industry because of the preferential treatment of our service industry which is now collapsing for obvious reasons.

    It would be nice if we could have a government one day instead of a self-perpetuating duopoly of gangsters.

  • Comment number 70.

    Other than the fact that I agree with Beatsy about the sweep it under the carpet analogy. This is typical of this incompetent, impudent government (and all the parties are the same).

    The crux of the question falls back to Mr MacGregor and his QC colleague, Guy Newey - £16 million, nice revenue streamshouldnt the SFO be investigating them, or is that statement a little to near the knuckle.

  • Comment number 71.

    Having thought some more about this, we have a government who select and emminent QC and a accountancy firm to investigate the MG/Rover "farce". They charge GBP16,000,000 and take 4 years.

    The same government claims they are incompetent. Why else ask the "civil service" to investigate the same farce? Which poses another question, are the police at the beck and call of the government? Or can they investigate behaviour they suspect to be criminal at their own behest? Are the SFO part of the police? I dont know.

    Long grass, teflon shoulder pads come to mind. Is corruption to strong a word for what we are seeing?

    Will the government reclaim the money paid for a report that does not answer all the questions?

    Going completely off topic what happened to Ministers having to sit in the commons? Wedgewood-Benn and Douglas-Home come to mind.

  • Comment number 72.

    #59 said:
    "The usual trade trick for forensic accountants is to simply put out requests for other people to provide them information, so they don't have to do anything themselves. This is just another form of fraud."

    In court proceedings forensic accountants are prohibited from giving opinions outside their own area of expertise. So a forensic accountant cannot, for example, give his opinion on the market value of a building. The rules require him, if he needs that information, to instruct an expert in building valuation to provide an opinion on the value of the building. The forensic accountant can then properly use that opinion in his report.

    The point is that the court obtains the most reliable evidence.

    Having established the true facts the forensic accountant can then give his opinion as to whether, for example, the accounts (or other information) supplied by the defendants to the government or to lenders were misleading. The forensic accountant is only permitted to give an opinion in court on the accounting issues.

    Ashill

  • Comment number 73.

    Can't the Telegraph get hold of the DVD?

    I ran a 75 for 7 years and 80,000 miles. It was a wonderful car at a bargain price. I have just replaced it with an A6 and am not nearly so happy.

  • Comment number 74.

    Mrs Perkins, I wonder where your allegiances lie....eeerrrrr...starter for ten..!!

  • Comment number 75.

    Just another smoke screen from the govt to give the impression they are doing something. There will (like the MPS on expenses) never be a conviction so might as well drop it now. Total waste of £16 million. The sad fact is that the company was allowed to fail; I hate to admit it but full nationalisation of banks and strategic companies is the only answer - we will end up there anyhow so why not act now. Gordon Brown is pathetic (Cameron not much better)

  • Comment number 76.

    Rover's death throes occurred over a long period and there is plenty that could embarrass the government. The story goes something like this. BMW bought Rover from BAe in January 1994 and they had the very best of intentions for it. But they were in for two nasty shocks, first BAe had effectively asset stripped Rover selling off surplus land at the Cowley plant and at the former design centre in Coventry. BAe snaffled the profits for itself and left Rover on a hand to mouth existence, Longbridge needed massive modernisation to make it viable for the future but BAe had left Rover without the means to fund it. The other shock was over the replacement for the best selling 200/400 Series, Rover's management (led at the time by Lord Simpson who would later turn solid, cash rich GEC into bankrupt .com failure Marconi) misread the market and put into production the 400 Series, later called the 45, the car was marketed as a Mondeo rival and priced in that bracket but it was only Escort/Focus sized, the result was that the car bombed in the market place. BMW paid for the development of the 75, an excellent car by any standards and was paying for the new Mini and for a new car (code named R35) to replace the slow selling 45 and the 25 which was doing OK. In order to pay for the redevelopment of Longbridge for Mini and R35, in 1998 BMW approached the government for a £300 million loan, this request was refused apparently due to Treasury objections (I wonder who would have been behind that??!) The speculation over Rover's future was picked up by the press and overshadowed the launch of the 75 and hurt the sales figures.

    So now we come to 2000, BMW has had enough of the mounting losses and plans to sell Rover to Alchemy who will turn it into a niche producer of sports cars but a much slimmer business. There is uproar at the proposal and the government is nervous about the potential loss of thousands of jobs in the marginals rich Midlands within a year of a GE. So the Phoenix 4 emerge and pledge to keep Rover in the volume car business, their efforts are backed by Blair and Byers and they are the ones who BMW sell to. There is a lot of public goodwill towards Rover and sales pick up, then the 4 saviours give themselves bumper pay and pension packages and blow the public's goodwill.

    Over the next 5 years, MG Rover's management try to form a partnership with another car producer but nothing ever comes of it. Sales are steadily sliding as the 25 and 45 Series cars become increasingly outdated in the market. They then go for the deal with Shanghai Automotive and sell them all the intellectual property rights for the cars but don't finalize the deal to buy the company! So Shanghai plays hardball knowing that MG Rover is going to run out of money and they can take what they want from the remains!

    Sorry for the long winded post but it is a complex story. The potential embarrasment for the government is what role Blair and Byers had in Phoenix being Rover, under the Alcheny plan the remains of Rover would have had a more realistic chance of survival. Also if the government was aware that MG Rover was selling the crown jewels to the Chinese in return for little definite. There's also potentially what role Brown may have in blocking the BMW loan which could have prevented BMW pulling out a decade ago and Rover would have had a brighter future with the hugely succesful Mini and the 75, if it had had a proper chance. It's long rumoured that BMW reworked the R35 project into it's own 1-Series model which has also been a sales success. But in the end Rover failed because it didbn't have enough good productsm the sad thing is that if the government had been more far sighted in the late 1990's, Rover could have become a very succesful company.

    If you want to know more about this, I suggest you check out www.austin-rover.co.uk

  • Comment number 77.

    Post 64 you make some interesting points but the basic reason why MG Rover failed was as follows.

    It simply didn't have the money to invest in new engines, gearboxes and body frames. It was selling what were rebadged and midly restyled cars which were effectively at least 10 if not 15 years out of date. The engines were probably 30 years out of date.

    During the time that the Phoenix Group were in charge they tried a number of times with a number of different manufacturers to get hold of new engines and bodies and sought various co operation deals. All failed because basically MG Rover had nothing to bring to the partnership.

    Without new cars it was doomed to fail it was as simple as that.

    In the time that the Rover 45, which it was still selling as it went bust, had morphed from the Rover 400 car Ford had gone through two generations of Escort and were only a month away from launching the second generation Focus. If you compare the Rover 45, which had started as the Rover 400 and identical to the Honda Civic, against the latest generation Honda Civic in 2005 anyone can see how far behind Rover had fallen by that stage.

    As many potential buyers could see MG Rover was a dead man walking people simply didn't buy them fearing, rightly as it was shown, that warranties and guarantees would be worth nothing.

    I was looking to buy a new car in March 2005 and was offered an MG TF with top spec and an additional hard top roof thrown in for £ 3,500 less than MRRP.

    Ohh and don't get me onto the Rover Streetwise!

  • Comment number 78.

    Wow a "forensic accountant"!

    Can't wait for the next instalment of CSI Coventry.

    This huge amount of wasted effort, pouring over reams of documents and complex financial twaddle IS the core of the problem. As a society we think that complexity is progress. That the service sector is a more noble / sophisticated endeavour. In reality it is slowly becoming exposed for what it really is: the parasitic conduct of a parasitic class. One that is quickly grabbing what it can while Rome burns:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Tainter

    The real problem for us all is the "diminishing returns on investments in social complexity". Think what could be done with £16m! We are all overpaid pen pushers, with our cushy lifestyle subsidised by cheap fossil fuels and highly industrious Far East manufacturers.

    Wake up and smell the (Fairtrade) coffee.

  • Comment number 79.

    I hartily endorse what was written by JPSLotus79 and other similar comments. Lets have Blair / Byers / BAE executives and the Phoneix 4 behind bars for starters, but that's simply not going to happen. So to the voters of this region who lost out with Rover/MG make your protest vote count, but avoid the mainstream parties you'll get pretty much the same. P.S. I've got a Rover 75 fingers crossed best car I've ever had going on 5 years now! better than the previous Fiat / Renaults, much better!

  • Comment number 80.

    The Phoenix group were the government's preferred 'bidders'(all £10 of it) for the Rover Group which came with a £427m loan from BMW, yet 5 years later the company had debts of over £1000m. This is a failure of business management on an epic scale. I seems to me that the Phoenix Four saw this a great opportunity to make a lot of money very quickly, which they did. They did not need to go to trouble of making the business profitable and selling it on, since they were able to pay themselves huges salaries and pensions anyway. They couldn't lose. The Rover 75 was a fine car but clearly costs in the company were far too high. A sustainable solution was put forward by Jon Moulton's Alchemy Partners. A much slimmed down company producing lower volumes. However it was politically distasteful for a labour government to prefer a private equity firm saying they would downsize over a consortium led by an ex-Rover who claimed he could save the company, jobs and all. What makes me really angry, is the people who attacked Alchemy as so called asset strippers when in reality Alchemy's aim was make Rover smaller but sucessful, profitable and therefore sustainable. History now shows that in fact the Phoenix Four by lining their own pockets and running the good ship Rover into the ground were ultimately the wealth strippers here. As the owners of the company, they may not have done anything unlawful, but from my perspective they have demonstrated the kind of moral corruption that gives free-market capitalism a very bad name and needs to be stamped-out if our world is to prosper in the future (ditto banks).

  • Comment number 81.

    #80 Exactly!

    Moulton had a viable business plan which would have resulted into what was left of Rover being a major producer of niche cars. The loss of jobs would have been highly regrettable but it wouldn't have been anything like the asset stripping that happened to Rover under BAe and Phoenix ownership.

    The SFO probe is patently an attempt to kick the matter into touch until after the election, if any criminal charges come out of it I'm willing to donate 100 pounds to a charity of Robert Peston's choice! Phoenix weren't crooks, they were incompetent, sadly incompetence isn't a crime or else just about everyone who has been in government since 1997 would be doing time at Her Majesty's Pleasure!

  • Comment number 82.

    Naive boy! It's obvious, there is something in there that Brown doesn't like so he has chosen this method of kicking it into the long grass until next year! Standard tactics.

  • Comment number 83.

    good points Hawkeye_pierce and john_from_henden.

    The company had already paid auditor fees of c£300k per annum. Plus hundred(s) of thousands on other accountancy advice.

    The liquidators fee seemed a long way towards half a million pounds.

    There really shouldn't be a lot for a forensic accountant to do, a large proportion of £16m of tax payers money is staggering



  • Comment number 84.

    There are several reason why MG/Rover failed and in general I agree with post 76.

    BMW could have made the MG/Rover relationship work but they failed in several key areas.

    1- They were woried about impacting UK sales for BMW so made the 75 a 'soft' car, this immediately undermined it appeal to a large section of the UK market place and limited sales.

    2- They replaced the 600/800 which were designs that could have kept going especially the 600, when they should have replaced the 25/45. They may well have been able to re-create the premium brand that the old 200/400.

    I wrote a dissertation on Austin-Rover in 1990 and my penultimate paragraph reads "...if Austin-Rover does not break into Europe it will be squeezed out of existience when 1992 allows free access to the British Market."

    It took 13 years and BMW probably could have stopped this happening.

    Looking forward if I were working with either Jaguar or Vauxhall I would be looking at a way of re-inventing the Mini. The BMW Mini is an excellent car but it is not a Mini. A Modern version of the Mini based on the original Issigonis value would be a money spinner in today's economic climate.

  • Comment number 85.

    #83
    An audit involves, briefly, (i) gathering information about the design of the company's accounting systems and procedures, (ii) evaluating whether that design appears sound, (iii) checking a minute proportion of transactions going through the system to check if the procedures appear to be operating in accordance with the evaluated design (and drawing statistically valid inferences about the operation of the accounting system on the entire population of transactions), and (iv) stepping back and looking at the overall figures in the annual accounts of the company to see if they 'look and feel about right'. If all that checks out then the accounts would seem to be broadly correct (give or take). The auditors will then issue a 'clean' report.

    Of course what 'looks and feels about right' might change if, say, an apparently buoyant economy moves suddenly into recession or if a significant mis-statement or fraud comes to light.

    The audit has to be cost-effective and prompt, so checking is kept to the minimum consistent (one hopes) with forming a reliable audit opinion.

    Other accountancy advice might be on complying with tax and minimising the tax liabilities.

    The liquidators' function is to get as much as possible for the company (either as a whole or in bits) at minimum cost and with maximum speed.

    None of these is remotely similar to the role of a forensic accountant, whose job is to undertake a very detailed examination of relevant documents and transactions with a view to giving evidence in court. No doubt the investigation in this case covered, in some depth, what went on over a period of several years and looked carefully at the role of particular individuals in events as they unfolded.

    That sort of in depth examination takes time and costs money (but you already knew that!).

    Ashill

  • Comment number 86.

    #41 "Secondly accountants are renowned for sitting on the fence and giving conflicting advice such as, on the one hand it could be this and on the other hand it might be that."

    Please, you are insulting professional accountants !! You forgot to mention that they also say "...on the third hand it might be the other" !!

  • Comment number 87.

    Personally speaking I can't believe that a man of John Towers integrity would have been more concerned with his own bank balance than in trying to secure a future for M G Rover.
    The man was, and remains, very popular with the Longbridge faithful.

  • Comment number 88.

    #67 "I strongly suspect that there are two reasons for this: 1. Because they use their friends they can rely on non-controversial interpretation of the facts and 2: The people who do the buying want jobs with the firms concerned when they leave government etc."

    Really ?? Who'd've thunk that ?? I thought these persons (politically correct description) were of the highest integrity !! :-)

  • Comment number 89.

    Ian_the_chopper (#53) From the Guardian article: "BMW's 427 million pounds was there to fund generous redundancy terms for them. By the time the money was needed, it was gone, and the workers were five years older, less able to find a career elsewhere. A study nearly two years on found that almost a quarter of them were not in regular employment, despite a two million pound support package from the government"

    Interesting wheeze if true. Another case to tie the SFO up in knots and result in a case which not prosecutable like all of the rest? Business appears to be another term for 'legal crime' aka venality, but then, what's new? It's what the electorate (mostly unwittingly no doubt) have been voting for since at least 1979, i.e freedom from regulation aka Economic anarchism. In some circles this is esteemed as 'intelligence incarnate'.

  • Comment number 90.

    #84 Yes the 600 series was a very underrated car which was selling well in the UK and was taking sales off BMW's 3-Series. I can understand why BMW would want to redefine Rover's product range so as to prevent internal competition, BL had a multitude of models which competed more with each other than with Ford,but they approached the range from the wrong end. Personally I think Bernd Piechetschreider and Wolfgang Reitzle just didn't understand the volume market and failed to appreciate that the 400 Series was a total lemon. Then again it was then the newest member of Rover's range while the 800 was the oldest and needed replacement, replacing your newest car after 3 years would have looked very bad! The way the 75's ride was set up was wrong, ironically the car only really showed how good it was under MG Rover!

  • Comment number 91.

    #64 "I knew a guy who left Rover when the troubles started (got out while he could) - he's now a plasterer, earning less money and not using any of the skills he has with engineering (which Rover trained him in). Surely this is the scandal - the waste. Training people up and then not making sure their skills are utilised. He's gone from being a competent engineer to an average plasterer and society has lost out."

    Since MG/Rover is/was *NOT* the only car maker in Britain, if he was a competent engineer *AND* he was serious about getting a new engineering job, he would have got one with one of the other car makers !!

    "The car industry should have been looking for alternative fuelled cars 20 years ago - any company that had would be laughing their socks off now."

    Strange you should mention this !! Have you heard of a little known car called a Toyota Prius ?? It seems that they still cannot make enough of them to satisfy demand although the company as a whole has falling sales, especially in their panzerwagon (oops, sorry, I mean Lexus SUV) division !!

    "Many claims are made that innovation is an invention of the market driven Economy - as we're getting more and more advanced are we not realising this is a myth?"

    Another strange statement seeing that you are using the Internet that barely existed 20 years ago !! I know there were many SIGs (Special Interest Groups) with their own networks back then, two of which - JANET and UUNET accepted *me* as a member (more fools them) !! :-)

    Then there are the CDs, DVDs, MP3 players, flat screen TVs, digital cameras and truly portable mobile phones (as opposed to half-bricks) just to name a few "minor" innovations that are the myths you mentioned !! Of course, being myths, they cannot possibly exist, can they ??

    "How does the market price in Global catastrophe? How does the market price in finite resources?

    The answer is it doesn't - we're sitting on the edge of the biggest bear trap ever and I think we're about to find out how bad it can really get..."

    The problem is not in the market but in the government(s) interference in the market mechanism(s) for party political reasons !! If market mechanisms were in force, all those "too-big-to-fail" banks would have failed by now and better ones would have sprung up/expanded to take over their businesses. Many commenters here have said the same !!

    Latin may be a horrible language to force upon a child but many truths have been expressed in that language. One of which is - Caveat Emptor, Let the buyer beware !!

  • Comment number 92.

    #61 "'Is there a suitably anodyne, and therefore politically acceptable, term for bunch of crooks?'


    Um yes, they are commonly known as 'Members of Parliament'...."

    There is a further sub-set that are at the pinnacle of their vocation and they are commonly known as "The Government" !!

  • Comment number 93.

    #60 "I hope Mandleson doesn't give another condescending sounbite on the news tonight as I will be forced to throw something at the TV."

    Please don't !! Otherwise a slave labourer in the East will have to work extra hard to provide you with another TV !! You are, of course, at liberty to throw something at Bendy Mandy himself, although Her Majesty's Finest will take a dim view of such actions !!

  • Comment number 94.

    #56 "Is there no legal way the British public can rid ourselves of this unelected President"

    Yes !! The great Oliver Cromwell showed us how !! That's why his statue stands outside Parliament today !!

  • Comment number 95.

    #51 "The demise of MG Rover was inevitable. It simply could not compete in a highly competive market, especially against the cheaper imports coming from the far-east."

    What successful cheaper imports from the Far East ?? The cheap ones were generally unsuccessful and the successful ones were generally made in Britain and are more expensive or are of better specifications - Nissan, Honda and Toyota/Lexus, to name a few !! Perhaps you are thinking of cheaper imports from Europe like SEAT from Spain or French cars made in Eastern Europe !! Pitting the Rovers of that time against similiar priced cars from the Germans or the Japanese is like pitting a 98 pound weakling against Frank Bruno !! No contest !!

  • Comment number 96.

    I really wonder why Pesto bothered posting this - the reality was obvious to most of the world immediately

  • Comment number 97.

    REALLY ROBERT??

    A POLITICAL SOLUTION FOR A DISHONEST ADMINISTRATION RATHER LIKE IRAN

    BURMA OR MAYBE ZIMBABWE??

  • Comment number 98.

    I sat in my first MG sports car 8 years ago and fell instantly in love! (the colour may have helped I guess). My husband already had a 75, and as he drives all over Europe, was well placed to make his comment that it was the best car he has ever had-better than others before or since-Jags, Mercs, etc. 6 years ago I got my dream MG TF160, special paint job, air conditioning, special seats and sound system, colour matched hard top. I love her to bits. She may seem old inside, but I've only found one other car that could possibly woo me away-a special edition Ferrari. Can't live with my conscience at the cost of that, so quite happy with my MG.

    Something undefinably different somehow about the new ones-can't quite put my finger on it. I will therefore keep driving this one for a very long time.

    I know-I'm a sad soul, but I do love my car and hubbie and I were gutted when MG went under. He is thinking about a second hand 75 again, and my daughter wants an old style mini (my stepson already has one!)-these cars seem to touch our hearts and inspire all generations.

    That was what vanished-a part of our national identity.

    However, I assume that after all the time it took to produce this report that it is sufficiently detailed with evidence that the SFO wouldn't need to spend much time on it. As for the £40 million, that's £2.5 million apiece per year. A little obscene in my mind, but maybe my brain's mush from defending a hostile takeover bid this last 3 weeks!

  • Comment number 99.

    Can't someone find mandy a job with mugy in zimby. He's surely very well qualified.

  • Comment number 100.

    it is very interesting about what has gone on . do you remember when talbot pulled out of linwood in the 70,s .a bit of huff and puff but they went anyway .linwood never recovered ..........it has been a rough house , with poverty ever since .
    the simple thing to say is there are too many cars getting made now ...not enough people buying .blame labor, the tories , basically whoever you want .the whole global market has changed . .........if people dont wake up they will be left behind ( without a job )

 

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