ONE of the backers of a new bid for Rover has defended plans to continue mass car production at the Longbridge factory, declaring, "We can do the job." The Phoenix Consortium's John Hemming, sounded a note of optimism as he suggested the plan was properly funded.

His comments yesterday followed the dismissal of the Phoenix package by rival Alchemy Partners' chief, Jon Moulton, as "doomed to failure".

He suggested Phoenix was not a real competitor, saying it was "non-viable" and there was "no real sign" that it had any finance behind it.

Alchemy's plan to buy Rover from German carmaker BMW and concentrate on making only MG sports cars, is thought likely to result in several thousand job losses at Longbridge, which currently employs 9,000 workers.

But Mr Moulton's comments were rejected by Trade and Industry Secretary, Stephen Byers, as attempting to "talk down" the Phoenix bid, which aims to save thousands of jobs at the Birmingham plant.

And in a clear sign of the serious intention of the Phoenix backers, headed by former Rover chief executive, John Towers, Mr Hemming insisted the Alchemy bid "looks less of a done deal now than it did to start out with".

Tackled on GMTV's Sunday Programme with Alastair Stewart, about Mr Moulton's comments, he said, "Does he really know about making cars, this is the question? Our assessment is that we can do the job. The team shows it has experience in the past, it's a good team."

He added, "BMW have made it very clear now that they are willing to look at alternatives. They have an alternative, they're looking at it and that's good news."

On financing he stressed, "They've got a complete bid - BMW are obviously comfortable that everything's there."