Tony Blair yesterday pledged to do "whatever we can" to save embattled MG Rover.

He was speaking as thousands of Longbridge workers continued to wait for a possible breakthrough on crucial talks aimed at securing the company's future.

The manufacturer, which employs 6,000 people at its Birmingham plant, is trying to forge a joint venture agree-ment with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). MG Rover directors and DTI officials were continuing discussions with the Chinese in Shanghai.

MP Richard Burden, whose Northfield constituency includes the Longbridge factory, asked the Prime Minister to make a commitment to MG Rover.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "The people we must keep at the fore-front of our minds are the 6,000 employees. Their families, their communities depend on it and the businesses whose future are intertwined with it. Will you assure me the Government will continue to do all it can to bring those negotiations to a successful conclusion and come what may this is a Government that will continue to stand by manufacturing in the West Midlands and MG Rover workers?"

Mr Blair replied: "I can certainly give you that assurance."

The Government was keeping in close touch with the company, he said, adding: "We will do whatever we can to help get a successful resolution of it. What must be foremost in our minds are the jobs and living standards and liveli-hood of those people who work at MG Rover."

Longbridge workers are still waiting to learn whether the Government will make a £100 million bridging loan to MG Rover.

The firm's directors have pledged to contribute £12 million of their own money to keep the company afloat.