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Mandelson determined to secure Vauxhall future

The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, yesterday pledged to help secure a "long-term" future for Vauxhall in an attempt to save much of its 5,500 UK workforce, as the parent company hopes to agree its sale by next week.

Lord Mandelson said the Government was in "constant contact" with its counterparts in the US and Germany as well as Vauxhall's parent General Motors, shortly before a tour of Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant on Merseyside.

He said the Government wanted to "ensure Britain's interests are fully represented," before the meeting with management, unions and local MPs at the plant, which has a workforce of 2,200.

Hopes that Ellesmere would survive increased on news it was to manufacture the new Vauxhall Astra for all of Europe from September.

Lord Mandelson said the Government was also in talks with the companies that had tabled a bid for Vauxhall. Canada's Magna International is thought to be ahead, while Belgium's RHJ International and the Beijing Automotive Industry have also made firm offers. "We are determined to continue our detailed discussions with RHJ, Magna and other interested parties to secure a long-term commercial future for Vauxhall," he said. Lord Mandelson visited Vauxhall's Luton plant this month, where he said the Government would part-underwrite a takeover of GM Europe.

The European arm of GM, which re-emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month, is set for further talks with the German government later this week. The Germans have also offered to underwrite the successful bidder. A decision is expected on the sale next week.