Local MP joins Minister in praise of MG Rover one year after crisis


A year to the day after BMW announced they were to sell Rover Richard Burden (MP Birmingham Northfield) will join Stephen Byers, the Trade and Industry Secretary, as he gives a keynote address to a major manufacturing conference organised by the AEEU.

In a speech themed as ‘Manufacturing Matters to the UK’ the minister is set to announce a package of measures that have been recommended by the Rover Task Force. Mr. Burden welcomed both the announcement:

This commitment will underwrite the regeneration of the area that has started to take place in the last year. Strong regions and strong communities are a vital component of a strong national economy.

and the work of the minister during the crisis:

Within 24 hours of BMW’s announcement Stephen Byers was up in the West Midlands talking to Rover workers and managers. He set up a special Task Force and this funding is the final part of £129m the government earmarked to deal with the effects of the crisis. His actions stand in stark contrast to the way the Tories behaved over Rover – selling it for a song with illegal sweeteners in the early 90s, presiding over its sale to BMW in the mid 90s and then looking the other way when BMW pulled out in 2000. It shows just how important it is to have a Labour Government.”

Mr Burden also believed it was ‘particularly fitting’ that he should be at a Trade Union event on the anniversary saying:

No one person or group saved Longbridge. It was the combination of so many different people’s efforts that made the difference. Key members of this alliance were the Unions and the MG Rover workers. At national level people like Tony Woodley of the TGWU, Duncan Simpson of the AEEU and Terry Pye of MSF were right at the sharp end of events. At Longbridge and the other plants union stewards and members were pivotal in helping the people of Birmingham send a clear message – ‘We ain’t going away’. The turnaround at Longbridge showed what can be achieved from a constructive partnership with unions, and shows the folly of the ongoing Tory prejudice against Trade Unions.

With the Longbridge plant in his constituency Mr Burden has continued to be active with MG Rover and spoke at a meeting of the Northfield Business Group on Monday night (12th). There he reflected on the initial reactions and shock that greeted the announcement.

“BMW’s decision to jettison Rover hit the West Midlands like a body blow last March. Some 50,000 jobs across the region were directly or indirectly dependent on Rover – around 20,000 dependent on Longbridge alone. If Rover had gone down the impact would have been felt most directly by Rover workers themselves and their families. But it would have gone well beyond that, hitting suppliers, shops and entire communities. That, in turn, would have led to a deterioration in health, rising crime and damage to the environment as well as devastation for our local economy.

That is why the people of the West Midlands were not prepared to let it happen. By standing together, we changed the course of events and led to the successful Phoenix takeover of Longbridge in early May.”

He also expressed his pride in MG Rover’s achievements over the last year and his “feet on the ground” confidence in the company’s future.

“MG Rover is on course to meet its business plan and achieved the tremendous feat of transferring production of the Rover 75 from Oxford to Birmingham last year. The prospect of the new Rover 75 Tourer going on sale in July, and seeing that and other new models on show at the recent Geneva Motor Show, are all positive signs that the sceptics got it wrong last year. We all know that John Towers and everyone at Longbridge still have a fight on their hands in today’s ultra-competitive motor industry. But we also know they have quality cars, made by a skilled and motivated workforce and sold at competitive prices. We all need to keep our feet on the ground, but I think there is a solid basis for confidence in the future.”

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.