08 July 2024

Future of Tata Steel of ‘great concern’, says Starmer on visit to Wales

08 July 2024

Sir Keir Starmer has described the future of Tata Steel as being of “great concern” following a meeting with the Welsh First Minister on the final stop of his tour of the devolved nations.

The Prime Minister visited the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Monday to meet Vaughan Gething, the leader of Wales, and Jo Stevens, the Secretary of State for Wales.

Sir Keir’s trip follows visits to the other devolved nations, having stopped in Belfast earlier on Monday and Scotland on Sunday.

He arrived at the Welsh Parliament having promised an “immediate reset” of the relationship between the Westminster Government and devolved nations.

It also comes amid concerns about job losses at Tata steelworks in Port Talbot, where around 2,800 jobs are at risk.

Speaking after his meeting with Mr Gething in the Cabinet Room, the Prime Minister said he wanted to “collaborate” with the devolved nations and develop “mutual respect and trust”.

Sir Keir had been due to speak to reporters on the balcony of the Senedd, overlooking Cardiff Bay.

However, a small but noisy crowd of around a dozen pro-Palestinian protesters outside the Welsh Parliament forced interviews to be moved to the fifth floor.

Speaking to broadcasters, the Prime Minister said: “It’s very important to me to reset relations with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, because I want to make sure that we collaborate, there’s mutual respect and trust.

“Here in Wales it’s particularly important because what I said before the election is that a Labour government would be a game changer, because you would have a UK government, working with the Welsh Government, delivering for Wales, rather than the conflict.

“This is an early recommitment to what I said in the campaign to come here physically on the third day (of being Prime Minister), to have discussions with the First Minister about the long-term objectives and of course, about some of the pressing issues, including Tata Steel, which is of great concern to me, to the First Minister and to so many people here in Wales.”

Sir Keir described the economy as being in a “bad state” and said his party now had to get on and “deliver that change”.

The Labour governments in Wales and Westminster are pushing Tata not to pursue any compulsory redundancies, with promises of £3 billion in extra funding for the steel industry in the UK.

Speaking to the PA news agency following Sir Keir’s visit, Mr Gething said “direct talks” were taking place about what a better deal for steel could look like.

He said the Labour government was offering “more money to co-invest in the future of steel” and the party’s manifesto was clear about the need for “more steel products to power the future of the economy”.

Asked if he could offer any guarantees for the communities affected, the First Minister said people did not want to hear “politicians making wild promises” but insisted the desire to see a better deal was “real” and Tata had to make choices.

Labour campaigned in the General Election on a platform that promised change.

When Mr Gething was asked if the people of Wales may take that to heart in the Senedd elections in 2026 and vote his party out, he insisted his party did not take any voters for granted.

He said: “There’s a lot to celebrate about this election result, moving from our worst result since 1935 to having 27 out of 32 Welsh MPs as Labour MPs.

“We now need to look at what’s happened in this election, about where we are in delivering improvements in the next nearly two years, and going to the people of Wales, with not just a record we can be proud of, but an offer for the future, about how we want to continue to transform and improve lives here in Wales.”

Announcing his UK tour, Sir Keir said his party’s landslide victory in the General Election has given Labour “a clear mandate to govern for all four corners of the United Kingdom”.

Labour emerged from last week’s elections as the largest party in Wales in Westminster, with the Conservatives wiped out for the first time since 2001.

Ahead of the visit, Sir Keir described Wales as having “enormous untapped potential ready to be unleashed”.

He said: “Working in lockstep with the Welsh Government and Vaughan, my Government will place the people and communities of Wales front and centre as we move towards a decade of national renewal.

“That means turning the page on years of economic hardship, towards genuine shared prosperity for working people, so they see and feel real, tangible change in their lives.”

Sir Keir campaigned alongside the embattled First Minister during the General Election.

Mr Gething has faced calls to quit after he lost a no confidence vote last month.

It came following the collapse of the co-operation deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru and a series of rows involving Mr Gething and donations to his leadership campaign from a man who has been convicted of environmental offences.

His party has been forced to defend Mr Gething’s continued presence in the top role in Wales, with Kim Howells, a former Pontypridd Labour MP, describing him as “damaged goods” during an interview with BBC Radio Wales on Sunday.

Mr Howells said Labour needs to change the Welsh leader “sooner rather than later” with fears the issue could impact the party’s chances in the Senedd elections in 2026.

Mr Gething has always insisted that he has broken no rules and Ms Stevens said he has her “complete support”.

Ahead of Sir Keir’s visit to Wales, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth and his party’s four MPs requested a meeting with the Prime Minister.

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