Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Tata Steel: Jeremy Corbyn cuts short holiday to visit Port Talbot as Government refuses to recall Parliament

Published 30/03/2016

Tata Steel workers are seen at the Tata sports and social club waiting to meet with British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn close to the company's works at Port Talbot, south Wales, on March 30, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Tata Steel workers are seen at the Tata sports and social club waiting to meet with British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn close to the company's works at Port Talbot, south Wales, on March 30, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has cut short a holiday and travelled to Port Talbot, site of Tata Steel - the country's biggest steel plant.

He wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to hold a special session of Parliament to discuss the steel crisis amid fears that thousands of jobs could be axed.

The Government turned down calls from the Labour Party to recall Parliament but announced that the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of ministers on Thursday morning in Downing Street.

Ministers have also signalled opposition to nationalising the industry while efforts are made to find a buyer for Tata Steel plants.

The Indian conglomerate shocked unions by deciding to sell its loss making UK business, threatening huge job losses.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid also cut short a business trip to Australia and spoke to the chairman of Tata Group.

The Welsh Assembly is being recalled next week to debate the future of the industry.

A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said: "Ministers will continue to hold briefings to update representatives of other parties on the situation but we have no plans to recall Parliament. Our focus is on finding a long-term sustainable future for steel making at Port Talbot and across the UK."

Mr Javid said the UK steel industry was "absolutely vital for the country", adding: "I'm deeply concerned about the situation. I think it's absolutely clear that the UK steel industry is absolutely vital for the country and we will look at all viable options to keep steel making continuing in Port Talbot.

"We are also very much alive to the human cost and we want to make sure no worker is left behind so where workers are affected that we are doing everything we possibly can to help them and their families."

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the Tata sports and social club to meet with union representatives and Tata steel workers close to the company's works at Port Talbot, south Wales, on March 30, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the Tata sports and social club to meet with union representatives and Tata steel workers close to the company's works at Port Talbot, south Wales, on March 30, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

But he said he did not think nationalisation was "the solution" to the crisis.

"At this stage, given the announcement from Tata has just come out, it's important I think we talk to them properly and understand the exact situation and we look at all viable options," he said.

"I don't think nationalisation is going to be the solution because I think everyone would want a long-term viable solution.

"And if you look around Europe and elsewhere I think nationalisation is rarely the answer, particularly if you take into account the big challenges the industry faces."

A spokesman for the Community union said it was "extremely worrying" that Business Minister Anna Soubry stressed this morning the Government was looking at all options to retain steel, but within hours it had ruled out nationalisation.

"We are also concerned that the Government does not regard the steel crisis as of sufficient priority to recall Parliament.

Tata Steel workers wait for British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Tata sports and social club close to the company's works at Port Talbot, south Wales, on March 30, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Tata Steel workers wait for British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Tata sports and social club close to the company's works at Port Talbot, south Wales, on March 30, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

" That would not have been a disproportionate response given the thousands of jobs affected and wider strategic impact on the UK economy."

Mr Javid had faced criticism from union officials and opposition MPs for not travelling to Mumbai to lobby the board of Tata.

He was in Australia on a business trip and was due to speak at an invite-only meeting of business leaders in Sydney, but will now return to the UK earlier than planned.

Mr Corbyn said the news that Tata was preparing to sell its UK assets puts "thousands or jobs" and "a strategic UK-wide industry" at risk, in his letter to the Prime Minister.

"Steelworkers and their families will be desperately worried about the uncertainty. The Government is in disarray over what action to take. Ministers must act now to protect the steel industry, which is at the heart of manufacturing in Britain and vital to its future," he wrote.

Around 40,000 jobs could be lost if no buyer is found for Tata Steel's UK business, according to analysis by the IPPR think tank.

It said the firm's UK business employs 15,000 people, with a further 25,000 jobs in the supply chain estimated to depend on steel plants.

Supply chain job losses are also likely to hit manufacturers and suppliers of iron, manufacturers of machinery, and processors and suppliers of coke and petroleum, some of which will be based outside of the UK, it was found.

The Government has called on Tata to give enough time for buyers to be found for its UK business in a bid to save thousands of jobs.

Ms Soubry said: "We want enough time to be able to secure a buyer. That will take months."

Workers at Port Talbot appeared shocked by the news as they clocked on following last night's announcement in Mumbai.

Unite union secretary and steelworker Mark Turner, who has worked at the plant for 11 years, said: "We were really surprised by the announcement because the one thing that the company told us that would not happen is that they would put us up for sale."

He added: "Everything is up in the air. All options are on the table: closure still has not been taken away."

Online Editors

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph