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William and Kate discuss British steel crisis with Indian PM Narendra Modi

Published 12/04/2016

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talks with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talks with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have discussed the crisis in the British steel industry with India's prime minister Narendra Modi.

William and Kate, who are touring India and Bhutan, chatted with Mr Modi, his officials and business and cultural leaders, about a range of topics including the issues facing steel manufacturers in their respective countries.

It is not known who raised the issue first but it is likely that the conservation turned to Indian steel conglomerate Tata, which has put its UK steel business up for sale after heavy losses.

Thousands of British workers face an uncertain future and the Govenment - particularly Business Secretary Sajid Javid - has faced pressure to do more to help find a solution.

A source said that among the matters raised during the informal talks over lunch between the Cambridges and Mr Modi was "the pressures facing steel manufacturers in the UK and India".

William and Kate's discussions with the Indian prime minister about the steel industry are likely to be welcomed by some of the thousands of UK workers employed by Tata.

It may not be a direct intervention into the issue, but talking about the situation will keep it in the public eye.

The move is reminiscent of William's father the Prince of Wales who has in the past spoken out in support of industries like farming and fishing when they have faced difficulties.

The informal lunch meeting was held in New Delhi's Hyderabad House, a former royal residence of Maharajas.

The source said the Duke and Duchess had a "friendly and informative lunch" with Mr Modi.

Senior Indian government figures were among the guests and the group also discussed mental wellbeing - an issue the Cambridges have been focusing on over the past year.

Other issues raised included the strength of the UK-India relationship in many areas including defence and security, opportunities for young people, conservation and the fight against poaching, and the UK/India Year of Culture in 2017.

In the latest development in the steel crisis, ministers are set to announce moves to include more British steel in defence projects, Mr Javid hinted.

Speaking during an emergency debate on the steel crisis forced by Labour, Mr Javid said Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunne could make an announcement "in the coming days" on Ministry of Defence (MoD) acquisition of British steel.

And potential Government "co-investment" with a commercial buyer in Tata Steel's largest plant in Port Talbot could involve taking on some of the business's debts, Mr Javid added.

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