MP Caroline Nokes met senior Govnernment business leaders today to press them to help Ford staff.

The Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton, whose constituency the plant is in, said the closure of the Transit van factory would be a ''bitter blow'' for Southampton.

She met Business Minister Michael Fallon today and said she will do all she can to offer support to the workers set to lose their jobs.

''Over 500 direct jobs will go and a wider number in the supply chain. It is critically important that we do everything we can to help those affected,” she said.

''The closure will have a significant impact on employment. These 500 employees have broadly similar skills and it is very important that they are given the maximum support possible.''

Mrs Nokes added: "It has confirmed our worst fears.

"Make no bones about it, this is a pretty grim day for Southampton. I will continue to raise this with ministers, and we want to know that Southampton is at the front of the queue for all the support it needs.

"Although we are part of the allegedly affluent South East, it's a region that is less affluent than other areas, and we have to make sure we get every possible support for these employees."