NESTLE boss Paul Grimwood has reassured MPs that the York chocolate factory has a long-term future - and that he will seriously examine union plans to save jobs and brands.

Four MPs from across the York area, two Labour and two Tory, met the Nestle Rowntree managing director yesterday to discuss the company's shock decision to axe 645 jobs.

York's Labour representative, Hugh Bayley, said the meeting probably represented the greatest example of cross-party co-operation in the area since MPs united in the mid-1990s to try to save the York Carriageworks.

He said Mr Grimwood had fully briefed them on the reasons for the September redundancy announcement, which also involves transferring production of famous brands, such as Smarties, to factories on the Continent, selling off part of the older factory site and investing £20 million in the remaining, newer part of the factory.

Trades unionists have accepted the departure away from York of chocolate assortments such as Black Magic, but are currently trying to draw up counter-proposals to keep other brands such as Smarties in York and save some of the 645 jobs.

Union leader John Kirk had expressed concern before the meeting that its efforts might be undermined.

But Mr Bayley said: "Mr Grimwood reassured us he would look very seriously at the trade union proposals to retain jobs.

"He also reassured us that Nestle has a long-term commitment to York.

"He said this would still be Nestle's biggest chocolate factory in the world."

The MP added that Mr Grimwood had said the company was receiving the support it needed from local and national agencies, including City of York Council, in seeking to redevelop part of the site and invest in the rest.

He said the MPs present were Selby's Labour Member John Grogan and the Conservative MPs for Vale of York and Ryedale, Anne McIntosh and John Greenway respectively.

"It's good to see all four local MPs there on a cross-party basis," he said.

Anne McIntosh said it had been a "very positive" meeting, at which Mr Grimwood had explained the huge investment by Nestle in the site over the years - some £440 million, with another £20 million now set to be invested.

A Nestle spokeswoman said there had been a "very constructive meeting," adding: "We are grateful for the opportunity to talk through our plans which will ensure that York factory is fit for the future.

"These plans will help to safeguard 1,800 jobs. We will continue to keep them up-to-date on future progress."