FORD has been urged to donate its Southampton Transit factory site to the city if it presses ahead with its closure plans.

Speaking during a Westminster debate Southampton MP Alan Whitehead said it would be a “slap in the face” if Ford were to sell off its Swaythling plant for development after receiving state handouts in recent months.

The Labour MP called for the site to be “donated to the community and the city that has put so much into Ford in the past and has been such a pivotal part in making that site work over so many years."

Commercial property experts estimate that the 52-acre industrial site would be worth between £10m and £15m.

Dr Whitehead said it would be “some reparation” for what he said seemed to be a "very grubby episode as far as the future of Ford manufacturing is concerned."

He was speaking during an Westminster Hall debate this morning secured by Caroline Nokes, Tory MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

The local MPs, including Southampton's John Denham and Eastleigh's Chris Huhne, were demanding answers on Ford’s plant closure plan and what the Government was told and when.

Ford announced nearly two weeks ago that it plans to close the plant in July, with the loss of more than 500 jobs.

The MPs questioned the awarding of a £9.3m Government grant just days before the announcement was made and a £80m (€100m) loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed off for Ford Otosan's sprawling Turkish Transit plant in July, which will take over Southampton’s work.

Michael Fallon, a minister from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said the department was told by Ford in September it would continue to produce the chassis cab variant of the Transit in Southampton in 2013, adding “we had no reason to question what they told us.”

He said Ford only revealed their closure plans to the department the evening before the announcement was made to the world.

Mr Fallon said he was “disappointed they chose not to engage with us until the day before the announcement.”

He said the EIB loan was approved for the retooling of Ford’s Turkish plant to make the next generation of the Transit and was “not based on the cessation of production in Southampton.”