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Monday, 1 May, 2000, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Blair's pledge to Rover workers
John Towers at Rover in 1994
John Towers was Rover boss for four years
Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he is personally committed to protecting jobs threatened by BMW's decision to dispose of its troubled Rover subsidiary.

We will continue to work night and day to secure the best interests of the workers, their families and the West Midlands.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair issued a statement saying his government would work "night and day" to secure the best interests of Rover workers and the West Midlands.

"I and the government stand ready to do whatever we can for the workers at Longbridge and the region as a whole," Mr Blair said on the eve of talks between the German carmaker and the consortium that wants to buy Rover.

Mr Blair said he had instructed Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers to keep him personally in touch with developments.

'Don't let Rover die' poster on Rover car outside the Longbridge car factory
Rover employees and their friends are rallying to save the company
Phoenix has reportedly told BMW that it has arranged the financing for the deal after being dismissed by the German firm last Thursday for failing to provide the necessary financial guarantees.

Former Rover boss John Towers believes his Phoenix consortium can save the giant Longbridge plant from closure and keep mass production going.

The consortium has received a sale and purchase agreement for Rover from BMW, and the partners have been poring over the details to finalise their bid for the ailing firm.

Intensive telephone talks have been going on through the weekend.

BMW has said it is now hopeful that a deal with Phoenix might be possible.

The firm has warned that it will have to close Rover if it cannot find a suitable buyer this month.

"We are quite optimistic that there is a fair chance that we can come to a positive solution," a BMW spokesman told BBC's Radio Five Live.

Call for state aid

Pressure is growing on the UK Government to help with funding.

A union leader representing some of the Rover workers has called for the government to use the money from its recent auctioning of mobile phone licences to help finance the Phoenix bid.

"BMW must be induced to do the right thing," said Roger Lyons of the MSF union, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

John Monks
John Monks: Time the government acted
"The cabinet does have the 22bn windfall from the mobile phones, proving a creative approach can be taken."

TUC general secretary John Monks said: "The government were prepared to give money to BMW for the development of Longbridge and I think they should be prepared to give money to the Phoenix bid as well."

The Department of Trade and Industry said that Phoenix had not asked the government for aid, but said any application would be considered as quickly possible. It was also being made clear that Britain has to abide by strict European Community rules on state aid.

Wait for financial details

The Phoenix consortium has declined to provide any detail on the financing, but insists its plan is viable.

"I can say categorically that the money is in place ... everything is in place, you have a team who know exactly what they are doing," John Hemming, the West Midlands businessman who brought the consortium together, told BBC's News 24.

Venture capitalists Alchemy, whose bid collapsed last week, had planned to end mass car production at Longbridge and build MG sports cars instead, at the cost of thousands of jobs.

Phoenix has proposed to cut Rover production by half, but promises that there will be fewer job losses than envisaged by Alchemy.

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See also:

30 Apr 00 | Business
Phoenix 'needs government cash'
29 Apr 00 | Business
Phoenix enters Rover spotlight
28 Apr 00 | Business
BMW threat to close Rover
28 Apr 00 | Business
Workers cheer Alchemy move
28 Apr 00 | Business
Can Phoenix turn Rover around?
28 Apr 00 | Business
Byers urged to act over Rover
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