Hartlepool’s leaders have called for the Government to step in and nationalise the steel industry to preserve it for future generations.
The town’s Labour MP Iain Wright and Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the council, believe the Government must do everything possible following the announcement by Tata that it plans to sell off all its UK operations.
Hartlepool’s site employs 500 people, with the firm’s plans confirmed at a meeting in Mumbai following disappointing results from its UK plants and a fall in demand in Europe.
Mr Wright, who is chairman of the Parliamentary business, innovation and skills committee, said: “Tata has said it’s not an out-right closure, so there’s a lifeline, but there is the potential a buyer will purchase the business and will asset strip it all and ultimately make a fast buck.
“That’s not in the interest of the workforce, it’s not in the interests of the British economy and it’s not in the interests of the wider steel industry.
“I’m frustrated that Parliament is not sitting, because there are some important decisions to be made and questions for the Government.
“If it means nationalisation for a period of time while the global steel market and industry stabilises and China stops dumping, it means we can retain the people who can make steel, because if we lose those skills and those jobs, then they are lost and they won’t come back, it is absolutely vital.
“The jobless situation is really serious, it’s going up where it’s going down in the rest of the country.
“These are great jobs that are highly, with good pay, an they are important to the economy because these are Hartlepool people putting money into its businesses.”
Mr Wright will urge the firm and Government to ensure it is sold as a going concern for the sake of the Brenda Road plant, as well as the region, with a need to deal with China’s cheap product.
“Not having a steel industry leaves us particularly vulnerable,” he added.
“We have a range of businesses which use steel, the car industry, aerospace, construction and nuclear power stations. When Hartlepool’s power station is rebuilt, we want to see it done with British steel.”
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “This is a shocking decision and is an appalling slap in the face for Tata’s loyal, dedicated and highly-skilled workforce both in Hartlepool and elsewhere in the UK.
“We implore the Government to explore all options – including nationalisation – and to do everything within its power to ensure that steelmaking is preserved at Tata’s Hartlepool site and at Tata’s other UK locations.”
UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott added: “These jobs, and others at sites elsewhere in the country, face extinction because of EU policies which have led to this tragic state of affairs.
“The USA has imposed anti-dumping tariffs of 266% on Chinese steel but we have just tinkered around the edges with only up to 25% which has not helped our workers one jot.
“Our energy costs are high thanks our ridiculous commitment to unreliable renewable power sources and while there are calls for state aid that is a dead duck as it is not allowed under EU state aid rules.
“Previous generations would find the collapse in the British steel industry totally unbelievable.”