Government minister says all options are on table to protect 250 Hartlepool jobs
A senior minister says the troubled Liberty Steel company is an “important national asset” and that the Government is looking at ways of protecting the jobs of thousands of workers.
Around 5,000 Liberty Steel staff at sites across the UK, including 250 at Hartlepool’s Brenda Road plant, are facing an uncertain future after the collapse of its main financial backer Greensill Capital.
Asked about the possibility of public ownership of Liberty Steel, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All options at the moment are on the table, we think that the steel industry has a future in the UK.”
The Government has refused a £170 million bailout, in part due to the “opaque” structure of Liberty Steel and parent company GFG Alliance.
Mr Kwarteng said the Government is “very keen” that any money given to Liberty Steel stays in the UK and his top priority is to ensure the plant and jobs remain here.
He said: “I think it’s a really important national asset and what we have to distinguish between Liberty Steel and the company that sits above it, which is called the Gupta Family Group.
“And I’m very keen, and my top priority is to make sure that the jobs and the plant (are) here in the UK, and we’re looking at all sorts of plans to try and keep those going.”
Liberty Steel told the Government last week that support was needed to pay operating expenses and deal with recent losses.
Mr Kwarteng added: “One of the critical things about the £170 million is that obviously we are custodians of taxpayers’ money and there were concerns about the very opaque structure at the GFG group and we feel that if we gave the money there was no guarantee that money would stay in the UK and would protect British jobs.
“It’s a multinational enterprise, they have assets all over the world and we were very keen that any support the British Government gave would actually stay in the UK and protect British assets.”
A GFG Alliance spokesman said it has adequate funding for its current needs.
They added: “Discussions to secure alternative long-term funding continue to make good progress and while this takes place we have asked all of our businesses to manage cash carefully.”