Prime Minister chairs meeting on steel industry crisis as doubt hangs over Hartlepool's Tata plant

Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a meeting in Downing Street to discuss the crisis gripping the steel industry, amid growing fears of huge job losses - including hundreds in Hartlepool.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 6:39 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 7:26 am
Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a meeting about the steel crisis.

The Government is facing criticism over its response to a shock move by Indian conglomerate Tata to sell its UK assets, including the country's biggest steel plant at Port Talbot in south Wales.

Unions accused ministers of sending mixed messages after saying it was looking at all options to retain steelmaking before ruling out nationalisation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was "shocked" that Business Secretary Sajid Javid did not believe nationalising the industry could be the solution.

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Mr Javid has cut short a business trip to Australia to help deal with the fallout from Tata's decision to sell its loss making UK business.

The Government turned down calls from Labour to recall Parliament, a move accepted by the Welsh Assembly, which will meet next week.

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 steelmaking continuing in Port Talbot."

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."

Mr Cameron could raise the issue with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi when the pair attend an international summit in Washington.

Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: "Seeing confusion and mixed messages from ministers will only increase the worry of steelworkers across the UK.

"The fact that one minute they are saying they are looking at all the options and the next they're saying some form of nationalisation is not a solution shows a government divided and without the political will to take the tough action necessary to save our industry."

Dave Hulse from the GMB union said: "David Cameron should be ashamed of himself for ruling out a recall of Parliament."

Speaking in Port Talbot, Mr Corbyn called on the Government to intervene and ensure British-made steel is used to build infrastructure in the country.

A petition to recall Parliament set up by the Labour leader on Wednesday has gathered nearly 85,000 of the 100,000 signatures required for debate in the Commons.

Angela Eagle, shadow business secretary, said the recent Budget was a missed opportunity to help the steel industry.

"The Government should be doing everything possible to protect the industry but these latest revelations reveal the Tories have no strategy for steel. It's clear that steel workers in the UK are paying the price for the Tories' wrong priorities.

"The Government now needs to do whatever it takes to save this vital strategic industry which is the cornerstone of our manufacturing sector," she said.

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.