Government efforts to secure the future of MG Rover have been backed by the Midland MP whose constituency includes the car manufacturer's Longbridge plant.

Labour Northfield MP Richard Burden said it was "vital" that talks between MG Rover and Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation reached a successful conclusion.

He also rebuffed claims that financial assistance offered to the company was aimed at boosting Labour in the General Election.

Top officials have been sent to Shanghai by Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt to speed up negotiations.

MG Rover first announced plans for a partnership with SAIC last June, but negotiations over the joint venture agreement - which the company needs to survive - have dragged on.

The Government has received criticism that its offer of a £100 million bridging loan is related to the General Election announcement.

However, Mr Burden said: "That might be a fair criticism if either I or Government Ministers had suddenly popped up with this, having apparently shown no interest in MG Rover before.

"But it is five years, almost to the day, since I joined 80,000 others on the great March in Birmingham that followed BMW's decision to cut Rover adrift.

"The plant was threatened with closure then and Labour Ministers joined local politicians, trade unions, the wider community and of course, the Phoenix consortium, in intervening to give Longbridge the chance of a future.

"There was no election at the time. We did it because it was right to do it."

Mr Burden said MG Rover would still face difficulties even if the deal with SAIC was secured. But he said the agreement was important for the region. He said: "The Government is doing the right thing. Over 6,000 people work at Longbridge and there are thousands more jobs that depend on supplying goods and services to MG Rover."

Vicki Ford, Conservative candidate for Northfield, said: "There are many in the constituency who are cynical about the timing, but Rover is a company which is critical to the region."