The European Commission stalled £187 million of extra investment in Peugeot's Ryton plant while conducting its longest ever inquiry into state aid.

At the same time it used cash supplied by British taxpayers to subsidise the building of the Trnava plant in Slovakia, UK Independence Party transport spokesman and West Midlands MEP Mike Nattrass claimed yesterday.

Mr Nattrass said that Peugeot had submitted a request for state aid in December 2002, which the British government had referred to the European Commission. In what the DTI described as the 'longest case to win approval', a decision was not forthcoming until early 2005, by which time Slovakia was on the brink of accession to the European Union.

The Commission has approved £73 million of state subsidy for the Trnava plant.

Mr Nattrass continued: "Effectively British taxpayers have subsidised the export of their own jobs while the Commission dragged its feet over a decision which could have saved the livelihoods of thousands of my constituents.

"Peugeot was seeking state aid for Ryton in order to manufacture its replacement for the 206 range of vehicles. Had the Commission acted in a timely fashion and permitted the aid package requested, Peugeot would have invested £187 million in the West Midlands, and the future of the plant would be secure.

"Instead, the Commission decided that Trnava deserved the jobs more than Coventry, with the British government nothing more than a helpless bystander."