ASSEMBLY members have expressed their dismay at the loss of a major Marks and Spencer cakes contract which has put 650 jobs at risk at a Rogerstone's Avana Bakeries.

One AM said she would stop shopping in M&S – and Welsh business minister Edwina Hart said it is working with parent firm 2 Sisters Food Group to explore every option to safeguard jobs at the Newport bakery.

The comments came after Nick Ramsay, Tory AM for Monmouth and shadow business minister, asked an urgent question in the Senedd on the matter.

2 Sisters Food Group announced last week that the loss of the contract with Marks and Spencer will remove 85 per cent of the site’s business.

Mr Ramsay told the Assembly that the threat of 650 job losses was deeply distressing news for the 650 employees affected.

“This has been an iconic company in the South Wales area in Rogerstone for around fifty years,” he said.

Jocelyn Davies, Plaid AM for South Wales East, said it was a very serious blow to the area, and said she herself knew many people who have worked at the bakery, most of whom are women.

“I’m very disappointed that Marks and Spencer have pulled their Christmas cake contract which has been the mainstay of these jobs for many years," she said.

“Marks and Spencer, I can assure you, have certainly lost my custom.”

The impact on the local economy could be as bad as when Corus has their “slim down” in 2001, said William Graham, Tory AM for South Wales East.

Mohammad Asghar, also a Tory AM for South Wales East, said it was unacceptable for M&S’ decision to be made on a purely commercial basis.

Business minister Edwina Hart said: “This is a very worrying time for staff and their families. The Welsh Government is working with the 2 Sisters Food Group to explore every option to safeguard the jobs at Rogerstone.”

She said the Welsh Government were always in contact with 2 Sisters as it was an “anchor company” employing 4,600 individuals in Wales.

But Ms Hart said AMs had to understand that the 2 Sisters Food Group is a commercial company which engages in commercial dialogue with everyone it undertakes contracts for.

“This is a capitalist world we live in; this is the business world we live in, the role of government is to assist the workers and hope we can get further contracts for them,” she said.