Standing by MG Rover


Government spokespeople have confirmed that senior officials from the Department of Trade and Industry are in China to help bring to a successful conclusion, the proposed partnership arrangement between Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) and MG Rover. They have also confirmed that the government has offered repayable bridging finance to stabilise the transition and to allow the new joint venture between the two companies to get off the ground. Richard Burden MP, whose Northfield constituency includes the Longbridge plant, said today.

“The Government is doing the right thing. Over 6,000 people work at Longbridge and there are thousands more jobs that depend on supplying goods and services to MG Rover. Reaching a successful conclusion to the negotiations with SAIC is vital to the future of MG Rover itself and to the people who live in my constituency and surrounding areas. Even if the deal goes ahead, there is no doubt that parts of it will be painful. But the consequences of not doing the deal would be far worse. The survival of Longbridge has significance both to the wider motor industry and to the West Midlands s a whole.

“In the medium term this deal offers big opportunities to both companies and both countries. For SAIC it offers the prospect of access to MG Rover technology and know-how to produce cars for the growing Chinese market and also a foothold in the European car market in partnership with MG Rover. For MG Rover it offers the prospect of a partnership stake in the Chinese market, and new investment to produce a range of new models at Longbridge for the European market.

“But to realise the opportunities of the medium term, we need to get through the short term difficulties that MG Rover faces as a small player in the global motor industry with sales falling short of where they should be. If some bridging finance from the government helps stabilise the situation to allow the deal to go ahead and build the future, then such finance should be made available.

“Nobody is asking the Ministers to either write a blank cheque or to simply put a subsidy in. They have made it clear that any finance would be based on the deal going ahead; it would be repayable and others with an interest in the deal should also expect to make a contribution. It is thinking strategically about what is in the interest of this country.”

Responding to allegations from some quarters that the offer of bridging finance is related to the expected imminent general election announcement, Mr Burden went on.

“That might be a fair criticism if either I or Government Ministers had suddenly popped up with this, having apparently shown no interest in MG Rover before. But it is five years, almost to the day, since I joined 80,000 others on the great March in Birmingham that followed BMW’s decision to cut Rover adrift. The plant was threatened with closure then and Labour Ministers joined local politicians, trade unions, the wider community and of course, the Phoenix consortium, in intervening to give Longbridge the chance of a future. There was no election at the time. We did it because it was right to do it.

“Five years on and MG Rover is still there, having already confounded the sceptics who said it would not last more than six months. But to secure the long term, it needs a partner and that is what the SAIC deal is all about.

“The negotiations have gone on longer than I would have wished. Nobody chose that they would reach their most detailed stage just before an expected General Election announcement. But we are where we are. If providing government bridging finance would have been the right thing to do to secure the deal at this stage if there was no election expected, it doesn’t suddenly become the wrong thing to do because an election is in the air.

“The important thing is that we all do what we can to bring the deal about.”

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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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