Tory grandee says ministers agreed Regional Growth Fund grant for Ford

Lord Michael Heseltine.

Lord Michael Heseltine.

First published in Ford Transit Factory Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

Don't blame me.

That was the reaction from the man who recommended Ford for a huge taxpayer-funded grant just days before the car giant revealed its shock plans to shut Southampton’s factory.

Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine said Government ministers were solely responsible for the award – which was rubber-stamped just days before the company delivered the bombshell, which will result in the loss of 500 jobs.

He said his panel was simply doing its job by recommending the approval of Ford’s bid.

But Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, said his comments showed the “incompetence” in the bidding process, adding: “Michael Heseltine has given the honest answer, but it’s also a stupid answer, and it’s not the way public money should be spent.”

Details of the handout, revealed by the Daily Echo, sparked fury in the aftermath of the Swaythling factory closure.

The minister in charge, Business Secretary Vince Cable, has said he feels “let down” by the announcement, while Southampton MPs have demanded to know whether Ford revealed its bombshell intentions when negotiating the grant.

The Regional Growth Fund is chaired by Lord Heseltine, whose panel assesses each bid for funding and makes recommendations to ministers on which ones should be approved.

Yesterday the Daily Echo asked the former Deputy Prime Minister whether his committee had looked into Ford’s wider plans for jobs in this country before accepting its bid.

He said: “No, that’s not what we were asked to do. We were asked to look at it project by project and to secure a re-balancing of the economy with long-standing sustainable jobs.

“My team made the recommendations to ministers purely on that basis. “Ministers either supported, or added to, or subtracted, and they are responsible for the ultimate decisions.”

The cash award to Ford, aimed at creating jobs in Essex, would have been signed off by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, working closely with Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Dr Cable has told the Daily Echo he was in the dark about Ford’s plans and has promised to look back at notes of previous meetings to see what information was made available.

Mr Denham said: “This shows the level of incompetence in the Regional Growth Fund.

“You can’t rebalance the economy with a few grants here and there – you have to have a strategic approach to each industry and ensure that every investment you make is giving you the biggest possible bang for your buck.

“It is a fatal flaw that they agreed a grant to Ford without asking them about their wider commitment to this country.”

Comments (9)

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1:18pm Wed 31 Oct 12

George4th says...

Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.”
Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"!
Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.” Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"! George4th
  • Score: 0

1:43pm Wed 31 Oct 12

The Wickham Man says...

Hmm Doesn't sound good does it. What is really dumb is that this money has not been paid yet - it is just in an approved grant, yet for the next three months or so all these Civil Service mandarins and ministers will be shaking their heads saying "It's the process. There's nothing we can do" until the money finally arrives in Ford's bank account next year. That's what really stings.
Hmm Doesn't sound good does it. What is really dumb is that this money has not been paid yet - it is just in an approved grant, yet for the next three months or so all these Civil Service mandarins and ministers will be shaking their heads saying "It's the process. There's nothing we can do" until the money finally arrives in Ford's bank account next year. That's what really stings. The Wickham Man
  • Score: 0

2:21pm Wed 31 Oct 12

Huey says...

Simple, the Government should announce a new tax for any large automotive manufacturing corporations leaving Southampton in the next year.
I suggest a one-off bill of £10m.
Simple, the Government should announce a new tax for any large automotive manufacturing corporations leaving Southampton in the next year. I suggest a one-off bill of £10m. Huey
  • Score: 0

2:39pm Wed 31 Oct 12

hulla baloo says...

Check their drives and see who has a new Ford delivered in the near future.
Check their drives and see who has a new Ford delivered in the near future. hulla baloo
  • Score: 0

2:56pm Wed 31 Oct 12

loosehead says...

So let's get it right! Denham wants the grant stopped unless Swaythling stays open?
So we stop the grant & Fords say Okay we'll no longer need the other two plants so we'll shut all three?
So not one plant gone but three is that what our Labour MP's want?
I can't stand Williams but he seems to have accepted this fact & applauded the Governments quick actions on this subject so why's our twl MP idiots still going on about it?
So let's get it right! Denham wants the grant stopped unless Swaythling stays open? So we stop the grant & Fords say Okay we'll no longer need the other two plants so we'll shut all three? So not one plant gone but three is that what our Labour MP's want? I can't stand Williams but he seems to have accepted this fact & applauded the Governments quick actions on this subject so why's our twl MP idiots still going on about it? loosehead
  • Score: 0

3:06pm Wed 31 Oct 12

Linesman says...

George4th wrote:
Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.”
Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"!
Cameron knew what was going on.

Vince Cable did not know what was going on.

Nick Clegg didn't give two hoots as to what was going on.

Michael Hesseltine was in a responsible position, but denies responsibility.

George4th appears to want to blame it all on John Denham because he dared to to say that this was not the way that Public Money should be spent.

I guess George4th, like Cameron&Co, thinks that it IS the way that Public Money should be spent.

Not many would agree.
[quote][p][bold]George4th[/bold] wrote: Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.” Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"![/p][/quote]Cameron knew what was going on. Vince Cable did not know what was going on. Nick Clegg didn't give two hoots as to what was going on. Michael Hesseltine was in a responsible position, but denies responsibility. George4th appears to want to blame it all on John Denham because he dared to to say that this was not the way that Public Money should be spent. I guess George4th, like Cameron&Co, thinks that it IS the way that Public Money should be spent. Not many would agree. Linesman
  • Score: 0

3:11pm Wed 31 Oct 12

loosehead says...

Linesman wrote:
George4th wrote:
Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.”
Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"!
Cameron knew what was going on.

Vince Cable did not know what was going on.

Nick Clegg didn't give two hoots as to what was going on.

Michael Hesseltine was in a responsible position, but denies responsibility.

George4th appears to want to blame it all on John Denham because he dared to to say that this was not the way that Public Money should be spent.

I guess George4th, like Cameron&Co, thinks that it IS the way that Public Money should be spent.

Not many would agree.
So if as you say he knew what should he have done?
Stop the grant & lost even more jobs or secure jobs for two plants in this country come on let's here what you would do?
[quote][p][bold]Linesman[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]George4th[/bold] wrote: Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.” Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"![/p][/quote]Cameron knew what was going on. Vince Cable did not know what was going on. Nick Clegg didn't give two hoots as to what was going on. Michael Hesseltine was in a responsible position, but denies responsibility. George4th appears to want to blame it all on John Denham because he dared to to say that this was not the way that Public Money should be spent. I guess George4th, like Cameron&Co, thinks that it IS the way that Public Money should be spent. Not many would agree.[/p][/quote]So if as you say he knew what should he have done? Stop the grant & lost even more jobs or secure jobs for two plants in this country come on let's here what you would do? loosehead
  • Score: 0

3:25pm Wed 31 Oct 12

George4th says...

Linesman wrote:
George4th wrote:
Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.”
Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"!
Cameron knew what was going on.

Vince Cable did not know what was going on.

Nick Clegg didn't give two hoots as to what was going on.

Michael Hesseltine was in a responsible position, but denies responsibility.

George4th appears to want to blame it all on John Denham because he dared to to say that this was not the way that Public Money should be spent.

I guess George4th, like Cameron&Co, thinks that it IS the way that Public Money should be spent.

Not many would agree.
It went over your head!
>
It was a reference to the total incompetence of the last Labour government (Denham being a minister!) who wasted so much Public Money that they should be charged and jailed for crimes against the people of the UK!!
[quote][p][bold]Linesman[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]George4th[/bold] wrote: Mr Denham "it’s not the way public money should be spent.” Coming from a Labour MP, this has to be "Joke of the Day"![/p][/quote]Cameron knew what was going on. Vince Cable did not know what was going on. Nick Clegg didn't give two hoots as to what was going on. Michael Hesseltine was in a responsible position, but denies responsibility. George4th appears to want to blame it all on John Denham because he dared to to say that this was not the way that Public Money should be spent. I guess George4th, like Cameron&Co, thinks that it IS the way that Public Money should be spent. Not many would agree.[/p][/quote]It went over your head! > It was a reference to the total incompetence of the last Labour government (Denham being a minister!) who wasted so much Public Money that they should be charged and jailed for crimes against the people of the UK!! George4th
  • Score: 0

8:14pm Wed 31 Oct 12

Huffter says...

What a relief - I thought for a while that the Echo wouldn't have anything to say about Ford's today!
What a relief - I thought for a while that the Echo wouldn't have anything to say about Ford's today! Huffter
  • Score: 0

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