Port Talbot steelworks: ‘Resist speculation’ over future

Port Talbot steelworks: ‘Resist speculation’ over future
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image captionUnknown future for Port Talbot’s steelworks

There has been a call to “resist dealing in speculation” over the future of steel production at Tata’s plant in Wales.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said the firm “want to make steel in Wales, and that’s a good place to be starting this debate from”.

It followed an announcement that Tata is looking to sell part of its European arm.

About 4,000 people work at its Port Talbot steel making plant.

Tata announced on Friday that Swedish firm SSAB had initiated talks over the acquisition of its Netherlands-based operations.

The move would separate the UK and Dutch parts of Tata’s business, which merged back in 1999, then as British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens.

Wales’ Economy Minister Ken Skates said the news was “extremely worrying” for Tata’s 8,000 workers across the UK.

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Port Talbot’s Aberavon constituency, said it was “time for a partnership” between Tata Steel and the government.

He told BBC Radio Wales that Tata’s decision “puts the spotlight very firmly on the UK government that has to now step up and provide support to the British steel industry”.

He added: “It is about the UK government now stepping up to the plate and saying ‘okay, this is a British business, we need it for decarbonisation, for climate change objectives, we need it to build sovereign capacity after Brexit’.”

Tom Hoyles, of the GMB Wales union, said public ownership and UK government support “should be on the table” if necessary.

“Those are two options we think they should look at,” he said.

“Port Talbot and steel go together like fish and chips.

“It’s not just the jobs that are there that will be affected but supply lines… the smaller businesses and families who live in the town as well who will be worried.”

image captionTata wants to make steel in Wales, says the UK government’s Welsh Secretary Simon Hart

The UK government has also said it “will continue to work with Tata Steel and other stakeholders” as the company shapes its business strategy for the future.

The Welsh Secretary said the UK government and Tata had agreed to “work together” to protect the industry.

Mr Hart said it was a positive sign that Tata had made a commitment to a “sustainable steel manufacturing presence” in Wales.

Asked whether the UK government would step in and protect jobs at Tata, he said it needed to see what Tata planned for Port Talbot.

He added: “We stepped in and saved Celsa Steel in Cardiff at the beginning of lockdown.

“We have a good track record in Wales of where the arguments add up, of stepping in and helping. We saved 800 jobs in Cardiff.”

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