Steel industry situation has '˜profound implications' for British manufacturing and economy, says Hartlepool MP
MP Iain Wright says Hartlepool's Tata Steel plant where hundreds of jobs are at risk is of major importance to the country's economy and everything possible should be done to save it.
Mr Wright says the Government needs to do more to safeguard the business after Prime Minister David Cameron said nationalisation was not the right option.
Mr Cameron yesterday held a crisis meeting in Downing Street with ministers following the shock announcement by Tata to sell its UK assets, including Hartlepool’s Brenda Road plant where 500 people work.
Tata’s giant steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales, which is the biggest in the country, is also at risk.
Mr Wright, who is chairman of the parliamentary Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, is backing state ownership of Tata to give time to find a new buyer.
“Although Port Talbot is crucial to the South Wales economy and the wider British steel industry, any potential buyer needs to ensure that excellent capability and industrial assets such as those at the Hartlepool pipe mills are maintained and safeguarded for a viable future.
“The skills and capacity of the Hartlepool plant are so important to the country’s industrial supply chain that all options should be explored to ensure it remains open.”
Tata’s announcement came after disappointing UK results and a fall in demand for steel in Europe.
Mr Cameron said energy costs in the industry had been cut and the Government had helped to make sure there were penalties for steel dumping.
He said: “We are not ruling anything out. I don’t believe nationalisation is the right answer.”
Mr Wright said: “The Government needs to do all it can to safeguard the long-term viability of the British steel industry.
“On the one hand, David Cameron says that the Government is doing ‘everything it can’, but in the next breath said that nationalisation is not an option.
“Taking the industry into public ownership, even for a short time while a responsible buyer is sought could be the life raft the industry needs.”
He is also backing calls for MPs to return to Parliament to debate the issue and what support the Government can offer to the industry.
A Labour petition calling for Parliament to be recalled passed the 100,000 mark in just one day with a new signature every second.
Mr Wright said: “I would strongly welcome the opportunity for Parliament to return to discuss the steel crisis.
“This issue has profound implications for British manufacturing and the future shape of the British economy.
“I think this is of sufficient significance to ensure MPs are recalled back to Parliament to debate this issue and question Ministers on the precise nature of any support can be offered. The nature of any such support is crucial for Hartlepool.”
He added: “I will continue to press the Government on this matter and I think doing so in Parliament is the best way to do that.”
Mr Cameron defended the Government’s handling of the situation saying its intervention had prevented an outright closure at Port Talbot.
But he warned there were “no guarantees of success”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned what action has been taken by the Government and said it is failing thousands of steelworkers who could face losing their jobs.
He said: “The Prime Minister has offered no solutions today to the threat to our steel industry.
“His government is failing thousands of Tata steelworkers whose jobs are on the line.
“It’s not good enough for David Cameron to stand by and say the situation is difficult.
“He should listen to over 100,000 people who’ve already signed the petition calling for parliament to be recalled to debate this crisis.
“He must act now to protect the heart of manufacturing industry and take a public stake in steel.”
Roy Rickhuss, leader of the Community union, who met Tata officials ahead of the firm’s board meeting earlier this week, said he was “underwhelmed” by the Prime Minister’s comments.
Mr Rickhuss said: “I am disappointed that the Government still has no plan for the industry but instead seems to be adding to the confusion and mixed messages that have been the state of play for the last 36 hours.
“Despite the Prime Minister desperately trying to get a grip of the situation, his Government’s mixed messages continue – saying they will do all they can but still being unclear on the potential positive government intervention which may be essential to securing a future for steelmaking in the UK.”