‘Ministers may have to resign over bail-out’

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Ministers should resign if the government’s controversial bail-out deal doesn’t save the Sefton Group from going under, a backbencher says.

Michael MHK Alfred Cannan was speaking after Chief Minister Allan Bell and Treasury Minister Eddie Teare came under intense questioning in the House of Keys over the government’s intervention.

Under the deal signed last month, £1.3 million from the economic development fund is to be loaned to the debt-ridden plc while the strategic Middlemarch site would be purchased and leased back to the company which will have the option to buy it back after five years.

Mr Cannan told Manx Independent after the Keys sitting: ‘The whole policy on the use of economic development funds is now in complete tatters and the government is going to have to take steps to restore public confidence.

‘If this company falters after what has happened, then members of this government are going to have to resign. There is still a question in my mind about whether there is enough confidence left in the Economic Development Minister and the Treasury Minister to keep them in position over the next few months but we will have to see how matters develop now in the next couple of weeks.’

In the Keys, the Chief Minister was asked whether now government policy to give secured and unsecured loans to companies in debt.

In a personal statement he corrected any earlier announcement that the group’s outstanding debts would be netted off against the loan. In fact, he told MHKs, the group had been given until the end of June to clear its income tax, National Insurance and VAT arrears.

The Sefton Group has confirmed it owes £200,000 in unpaid tax – although Mr Teare declined to give that figure in the Keys. Mr Bell told MHKs there was a difference between being in arrears and being in default.

Kate Beecroft (Lib Van, Douglas South) suggested if the company had gone into liquidation it might have revealed transactions that ‘some people would prefer not to come to light’. Lib Van colleague Peter Karran (Onchan) suggested this was why the company had received ‘preferential treatment’.

Mr Teare replied: ‘This is definitely not an exercise in brushing things under the carpet – far from it.’

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