News in brief

MPs watch industry

A new all-party group of MPs and peers was set up this week to scrutinise government policy on the oil and gas industry. It will be chaired by Bob Blizzard, Labour MP for Waveney, with Lord Fraser of Carmylie as vice-chairman.

Space contract

Matra Marconi Space has signed a e60m ($70m) contract with the European Space Agency to design and develop Mars Express, the first European spacecraft to visit Mars. The craft, which may determine whether underground water exists, will be launched in 2003.

BP goes solar

BP Amoco announced this week that it would install solar power in around 200 petrol stations in 11 countries. The move follows the success of a pilot scheme at 19 stations around the world. The programme will cost £31m over two years and involve the installation of 3.5MW of solar capacity.

Paper cut

Paper manufacturer Arjo Wiggins Appleton is to close its Welsh specialist coatings plant with the loss of 460 jobs. The closure has been blamed on European overcapacity for carbonless paper.

Visteon invests

Visteon Automotive Systems is investing £22.5m to support a contract for the supply of chassis components for an un-named European vehicle manufacturer. The investment, supported by a grant from the Welsh Office, has secured 80 jobs.

Jobs in jeopardy

Up to 370 jobs may be at risk at Edinburgh-based engineering firm Peebles Transformers, part of Austrian group VA Tech. A fire destroyed the factory and management may relocate the business. All workers at the site were safely evacuated from the factory.