A Birmingham schoolgirl who lives in the shadow of the Longbridge plant has told Labour's annual conference that the Government had to throw its weight behind manufacturing.

Lucy Seymour-Smith (pictured), aged 17, made the heartfelt plea in a speech to more than 1,000 delegates about the devastating effect the collapse of Rover had on the city.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson listened from the podium as Lucy, who lives just a mile from the former MG Rover complex, took part in a debate on the economy.

The teenager, a pupil at King Edward Five Ways, was representing Northfield constituency Labour Party.

"I'm sure you'll understand why I wanted to speak in this debate," she told the Brighton conference.

"For those of us who live in Northfield, we all know someone who has been affected by the demise of the Rover plant.

"I can assure you, everyone did all they could to save Rover. The workers and their families, trade unions, the Rover task force, our local MP.

"With Longbridge in mind, I wish to call on the Government to re-double its efforts to create a viable and competitive future for manufacturers throughout the UK."

She said the Government was helping manufacturing, for example, by improving training schemes for people already in work. But she added: "We all know there is a lot more to do."

Lucy told the conference there were signs of hope at Longbridge.

"A new technology and science park is being built next to Rover which, in time, will bring new, highly-paid jobs in modern manufacturing."

She also appealed to West Midland firms to be encouraged to bid for contracts connected with the Olympic Games, such as construction work.

After her speech, she said: "It was very personal for me.

"I have been a member of the Labour Party since I was 15, and I spoke once at a city council meeting when we were campaigning against guns and knives. But I have never done anything like this before.

"It was nerve-racking, but also exciting."

The conference was also warned by unions that the overwhelming majority of sacked Rover workers have not found work and many of those that have were forced to accept low-paid jobs.

Derek Simpson, leader of the union Amicus, said he had asked Tony Blair to order an inquiry into what had happened to former Rover staff.

He said: "Six or seven months ago, 6,500 people lost their jobs who were directly employed at Rover.

"Seventy-two per cent of the Rover workforce are still unemployed.

"Those with jobs have to struggle on a fraction of their former earnings. One individual has reported to us that he has gone from earning #23,000 to #7,000.

"That is the reality of what happened to those whose jobs have been lost."