The Chancellor has pledged Peugeot workers he will play a personal role in helping them find new jobs.

His assurance came at a meeting in London last night organised by the Treasury and Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham (Lab).

As unions prepared a leaf-leting campaign at Peugeot dealerships across the Midlands, Mr Brown said he would oversee the support package for workers, after he co-ordinated the Govern-ment's response to the collapse of Rover last year.

Every effort would be made to match Peugeot staff to jobs making use of their existing skills, but many would need training in the workplace or in the evening to develop new abilities, he warned.

A spokesman for the Chancellor said: "When the announcement came out, Gordon Brown was in the US.

"He contacted Jim Cunningham and trade union leaders to say he wanted to talk, to hear first hand what the problems were and what could be done."

The discussion focused on "the challenges the region faces and what will happen to the workers, assuming the closure plans go ahead, and what opportunities will be available to them", he said.

"Gordon Brown will be heavily involved in putting together the package of support, as he was over Rover."

The Treasury expected the process of helping workers to be easier this time, because there was longer to prepare, he added.

"What we need to do on the long term basis is to work with the Chambers of Commerce and other local bodies, to look at the skills the workforce currently have and the opportunities as a region to match the skills to the jobs in the region.

"We have got until 2007 to do the preparation - we have got time to allow people to do workplace training or afterhours training for new jobs."

Theresa May, the shadow Leader of the House of Commons, called on the Government to do everything in its powers to help the 2,300 workers who will lose their jobs with the plant's closure.

During a visit to the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, she said: "It is not for government

to tell business how to run business, but it is for government to create the framework in which business can thrive and wealth can be created."

Workers from the threatened Ryton plant will make their voices heard to Peugeot customers and dealers as well as local communities and the wider trade union movement in the next few days.

Leaflets will be handed out on Friday and Saturday which make the case for Ryton as a profitable and productive plant.

Members of the public will be urged to write to the Peugeot chief executive Jean-Martin Folz to protest at the company's intended closure.

The T&G's Ryton works convenor, Jim O'Boyle, will address the Birmingham May Day rally where the leaflets will also be handed out.

"Peugeot's current and potential customers need to know they are buying tarnished goods," said Des Quinn, T&G regional industrial organiser. "They are tarnished by the betrayal of Coventry workers by a company which is talking economics but practising greed."

Delegates to the Transport and General Workers Union manufacturing conference in Eastbourne backed a resolution which described the closure of the profitable and productive factory as deplorable and pledged to support the campaign around a viable alternative plan for the future.