A GOVERNMENT Minister joked about the forthcoming Labour leadership race as he opened a new £25m control centre at Shell's Stanlow plant.
Energy Secretary Malcolm Wicks said he had come to the refinery straight from the party conference in Manchester where he had heard excellent speeches from the Prime Minister and the man very likely to be the next Prime Minister - Bill Clinton.
To the amusement of assembled VIPs, he suggested Mr Blair and Mr Clinton might consider a job swap.
Introducing Mr Wicks last Thursday afternoon, refinery boss Ken Rivers described the new nerve-centre as one of the most significant investments at Stanlow in the past 25 years.
The ultra-modern building combines five former plant control rooms under one roof and aims to take site safety to a new level.
Unveiling a plaque in the foyer, Mr Wicks told guests: 'The environment, health and safety are at the top of the petrochemical industry's agenda.
'I therefore welcome the significant investment by Shell in this new control room, which is a major sign of the company's commitment to continuous improvement in safety performance.
'It's also a further encouraging development for the North West economy and for the UK petrochemical industry as a whole.'
He added that the Government was currently conducting a wide-ranging review of energy and that the fuel refining industry, of which Stanlow was a major component, would be a part of this.
The operators who will man the new blast-resilient unit were consulted during the design phase and their comments were incorporated into the final plan.
Mr Rivers said: 'This investment, which follows hard on the heels of a £75m investment to produce zero-sulphur fuels at Stanlow, is another vote of confidence in our operations here. I'm looking forward to the benefits that will flow from a modern and unified central control room.'