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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Cautious welcome for Rover sale
MG sports car

Business leaders in Birmingham have given a cautious welcome to the sale of MG Rover to a Chinese carmaker.

Almost 6,000 workers lost their jobs when Rover went into administration in April with more posts cut at firms which supplied Longbridge.

Nanjing Automotive has indicated it wants to keep some production in the UK but shift other work to China.

A Chamber of Commerce spokesman said he hoped some of the laid off workers would find employment with Nanjing.

John Lamb said: "Hopefully this will be good news for some of those laid off in April.

"We look forward to the resumption of some form of car production at Longbridge."

They gave MG Rover everything and more and they ended up losing their jobs as a result
Richard Burden, Birmingham MP

Financial details of the bid have not been published. But according to the BBC's Nils Blythe if Nanjing's proposed plans come to fruition it could create 2,000 jobs in the UK.

Nanjing intends to relocate the engine plant and some car production plant to China but to "retain some car production plant in the UK".

Geoffrey Robinson, Labour MP for Coventry North West and former boss of Jaguar, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the deal "seems fraught with difficulties".

"We can only wish them luck but they are a very small company and they will face formidable difficulties."

'No guarantees'

Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield which includes the Longbridge area, said he hoped Nanjing would look to Longbridge as the centre of its activities in the UK.

He told BBC News 24: "There are absolutely no guarantees at all and the MG Rover workers and their families, my constituents and others, have really been through the mill and they don't deserve it.

"They gave MG Rover everything and more and they ended up losing their jobs as a result.

"That's why the key thing for all of us now is not to say whose side we're on and who we're for and who we're against, but to try and do everything we can to try to secure car production at Longbridge and to bring as many jobs as possible to Longbridge on a credible basis as part of a credible business plan.

"And that's what I'll be saying to Nanjing and their UK partners."

If manufacturing returned to Longbridge it would be on a different scale to the past, he said.

"But we have the skills and commitment the automotive industry needs for the future as well as heritage in motor manufacturing.

"Those things could be Nanjing's biggest assets in the UK."

'Urgent contact'

Professional services firm Arup had been advising Nanjing on the deal.

Its chairman John Miles said: "It is premature to release detailed plans at the moment. It is clear from our bid, and the indications of other bidders, that a viable MG business is possible in the UK."

Unions, however, had been backing a previous bid by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said: "There is no doubt in our mind that on first viewing, the SAIC proposals appeared to suggest more jobs for Britain.

"We made it clear that in Nanjing were indeed the preferred purchaser we would look forward to a discussion with them concerning their plans for Longbridge and for Britain and we will now make urgent contact with them in order for those discussions to take place."

Former MG Rover workers on how they view the deal

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