Wives and children of MG Rover workers were offered tea and sympathy by the Government yesterday when they took their campaign to save thousands of jobs to Downing Street.

Almost 100 women and their children travelled to Westminster to warn of the "horrendous" effect on jobs if the company's huge factory at Longbridge closed.

Carrying home-made banners and posters supporting the workers, they handed in a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to "pull up his socks" and redouble attempts to secure a partnership deal with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

Later they spent an hour with Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt who took them into her London office for tea and biscuits after saying: "We are doing everything we can to save jobs. The anxiety these women are going through is dreadful."

Meanwhile the Rover Task Force yesterday made its first grants to companies supplying the ailing car giant. More than £63,000 was handed out to six firms by the end of the day, preventing 234 people being laid off.

But it was not enough to prevent one Coventry company laying off half of its 450-strong workforce.

MG Rover also suffered another blow as it came close to bottom in a customer satisfaction survey published today . Only four major car manufacturers finished lower than MG Rover in the 32-company list compiled by marketing information company JD Power and What Car? magazine.