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Jeremy Corbyn: PM must be prepared to take public stake in steel sector

Published 05/04/2016

David Cameron are Carwyn Jones will hold face-to-face talks
David Cameron are Carwyn Jones will hold face-to-face talks

David Cameron must be prepared to take a public stake in the steel industry in order to protect the jobs and pensions of workers in the crisis-hit sector, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader said the Government had an "ideological allergy" to nationalisation but Tata Steel's decision to sell its UK plants, including the giant Port Talbot works, meant taxpayers' cash may be needed.

He warned that cheap Chinese steel dumped on European markets would not last forever and the UK must take action to preserve its own manufacturing base.

Speaking at an event in Harlow, Essex, he said he was not convinced the industry was safe because ministers "were not absolutely on the case" as decisions about its future were taken in Mumbai, India, with no UK Government minister involved.

"They seem to be unclear about the role the Government could take in this. We have to guarantee the industry, we have to guarantee the jobs and the pensions, we have to be prepared to take a public stake in it to guarantee that," he said.

"Because we all need the steel industry in Britain."

He told Labour activists: "Quite simply this industry is too important to our manufacturing economy, the security of all of us, to fail.

"The Government's ideological allergy to public ownership must not be allowed to prevent it taking the steps necessary to save UK steel."

Speaking at the launch of Labour's local election campaign, he said the Prime Minister had refused to recall Parliament despite a petition signed by more than 150,000 people demanding an emergency session of the Commons to debate Tata's decision.

He offered to support Mr Cameron in ensuring any deal to protect the industry was approved in Brussels but insisted that trade union representatives must be involved in talks on the future of the plants.

"Finally the Government is meeting with trade unions representing thousands of workers whose jobs are now in the balance in an industry they have given their lives to," he said.

"The Government must ensure that the trade union representatives are part of any negotiation and assessment of bids for Tata Steel.

"These are people who have given their lives to the industry. Their voice and their intelligence must part of the solution to the crisis."

Mr Cameron, speaking at an event in Birmingham focused on the EU referendum, said: "We've got a very difficult situation with the steel industry in our country just as other countries do because we've got massive global over-capacity, a collapse in global prices and this makes a real challenge for our steel industry.

"But we've got a Government that's determined to help in every way that we can. I met this morning with the Welsh First Minister to talk about all the things we can do."

Mr Cameron said help has previously been provided on issues including energy and procurement, adding: "We now want to make sure that Tata is looking seriously at a potential buyer for this business - and all of the business, I think it's very important to say that."

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