As my retirement draws nearer, I have settled on the idea that I will end my life career in the automotive industry. It is altogether unlikely that if I lose my job at the age of 63, either through redundancy of through being being retired early, I’ll find an employer willing to take me on for the three or four more years I wish to work.
So it goes somewhat against the grain to admit that I think that George Monbiot may have a point when he says, asd he does in his Comment is Free column for The Guardian today, that Peter Mandleson and his Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform department is doing the public no service by offering £800m in emergency refinancing to the Indian firm Tata to support its British subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover..
Monbiot, who is already fierce critic of the BERR, believing it to be a fifth column within government that works mostly for corporations and business and against the public interest, contends that money to be spent on the Jaguar Land Rover could in fact do a lot more good elsewhere.
The government refuses to renationalise the railways, but it appears to be nationalising the motor industry. It has already laid out £2.3bn in loans and guarantees, a further £300m for its cash-for-clunkers scheme, and £27m to help Land Rover build a new model. The £2.3bn, Peter Mandelson says, is “effectively the same as underwriting the entire vehicle sector’s research and development and capital expenditure for a year”. Now Mandelson intends, more or less, to run Jaguar Land Rover. This puts the British government in the odd position of nationalising a foreign-owned company.
None of these bold moves have been accompanied by public consultation or consent. The government has entertained no discussion of how else the money might have been guaranteed or spent. Yet just about every conceivable alternative would have moved more passengers, employed more workers and cut more carbon for the same expenditure.
Safe bicycle lanes, buses that connect with trains and carry bicycles, “on-demand” taxi-bus and bell-bus services, trains we can afford to use, a dedicated motorway coach network, properly funded programmes to get children to walk to school – all of these would have created great opportunities for employment while building our long-awaited low-carbon transport network.
In all conscience, I cannot say that I disagree with what Monbiot says. I’d like to think that if Jaguar Land Rover did get the money it’s now expecting the organisation would begin developing products that will benefit of benifit to society, but I fear that it won’t.