JLR and MG Rover - a tale of two car companies and one cabinet minister

Double brownie points for Lord Mandelson as MG Rover report is to be published and JLR avoids bailout.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

As if just-back-from-holiday Mandelson, minister for just about everything, wasn’t busy enough running the country at the moment, his blue suede footprints are all over the two big motor industry stories of the last 24 hours too.

Firstly, the business secretary has announced that the controversial, hugely delayed and very expensive (£16m to you squire, I’m cutting my own throat) report into the collapse of MG Rover in 2005 will be published after all. But not until Sept 11, for some reason. 

Coming as it does only weeks after the Dark Lord announced that the self-same report – widely expected to criticise the government’s role in the whole sorry affair – would not be published due to the involvement of the SFO, this is a pretty abrupt volte face. Perhaps Mandy realised that he wasn't going to be able to sit on this particular timebomb all the way to the next election, so the sooner it was out in the open the better.

Meanwhile, just down the M40 from MG Rover’s old home at Longbridge, it’s smiles all round at Jaguar Land Rover’s Gaydon HQ, as the firm announces that it no longer needs the massive government handout it has been seeking these several months past. Why? Because it has managed to secure short term funding in the commercial sector – in other words it’s got a bank loan. Remember those?

Although it may possibly have led to a cooling of relations between HMG and JLR’s Indian owner Ratan Tata, who certainly tried pretty hard to secure a taxpayer-funded rescue for the firm, for the rest of us this is good news. For one thing, it seems to suggest that the banking system may be starting to function as it should once again, and for another it has saved the already hugely-overburdened taxpayer several hundred million pounds. And it’s a very welcome vote of confidence in JLR’s future, to boot.

Wily old Mandy manages to come out of both episodes smelling pretty much of roses. Publishing the MG Rover report is clearly the right thing to do - even if it does paint the Government in a poor light, the public and the firm’s former employees have a right to know what happened. In particular, just what the directors - the so-called Phoenix Four - did and didn’t do.

He does even better out of JLR – his reluctance to bail out the firm, which might have looked like vacillation, now becomes tough love, a much more desirable attribute for a business secretary to display. What’s more, 15,000 UK manufacturing jobs have been saved – for now at least – all the while avoiding the killer headline ‘Indian billionaire bailed out by UK taxpayer.’

Love him or loathe him (and judging by the comments on his Guardian piece attacking George Osborne today, there are plenty of people in the latter category), it’s not a bad day’s work for the business secretary. He should go away more often.

In today's bulletin:

Unemployment soars again on the Inglorious Twelfth
JLR and MG Rover - a tale of two car companies and one cabinet minister
TUI profits as holidaymakers hunt for bargains
Summer security provides window of opportunity
If I Had to Start Again: Gerald Ronson of Heron International

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