24 January 2024

Ministers have saved 5,000 jobs in Port Talbot steel industry, Sunak insists

24 January 2024

The Government’s £500 million rescue package for Tata Steel has saved 5,000 jobs and prevented the closure of its Port Talbot plant, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Prime Minister insisted the UK Government’s intervention would also protect further workers in the South Wales’ steelworks supply chain, and claimed criticisms of the support package were “churlish”.

Last week, Indian conglomerate Tata Steel confirmed plans to close the blast furnaces in Port Talbot – its biggest UK plant – with the loss of up to 2,800 jobs in South Wales.

I know this is an anxious time for steelworkers in South Wales, but we are committed to working with the steel sector to secure a positive and sustainable future

Ministers offered to provide £500 million to Tata, which continue steelmaking in the town through a greener method using scrap metal.

But critics have claimed the end of primary steel production will be devastating for South Wales and will jeopardise a nationally important industry, and have called for a more gradual transition.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour MP Sarah Champion said: “I represent a proud steel community in Rotherham who stand with the steelworkers in Port Talbot at this very worrying time.

“My constituents don’t want to see their taxpayers’ money used to make British workers redundant, our primary steel making capacity decimated and our national security compromised.

“So will the Prime Minister change his destructive course? Starting by looking at the credible multi-union plan to safeguard our steel industry’s long-term future?”

Mr Sunak responded: “I know this is an anxious time for steelworkers in South Wales, but we are committed to working with the steel sector to secure a positive and sustainable future.”

He added: “What was proposed to happen in South Wales was the loss of 8,000 direct jobs, thousands more across the supply chain, and the complete closure of the plant.

“Because of the Government’s investment and support and partnership we have safeguarded 5,000 direct jobs, thousands more in the supply chain and ensured the long-term sustainability of that steel plant so it has a brighter future.

“Obviously this is difficult, but it is entirely churlish of her not to recognise the largest support package, it is one of the largest support packages that any Government has provided any company and in the process safeguarded thousands of jobs.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had earlier drawn attention to the situation facing Port Talbot’s steelworkers, claiming that the Britain would become “the only major economy that no longer makes its own steel” as “the Government is handing out £500 million to make 3,000 steelworkers redundant”.

Pointing to overnight calls for Rishi Sunak to be replaced as Tory leader, Sir Keir asked: “Isn’t he embarrassed that the Tory party is yet again entirely focused on itself?”

The Prime Minister replied that the Labour leader was engaging in “yet more sniping from the side lines”.

Tata has said continued blast furnace production in Port Talbot was “not feasible or affordable” and the deal with the UK Government would help transition to a more sustainable, greener steel production using electric arc furnaces.

The UK Government has committed to invest up to £500 million while Tata will spend £750 million.

Tata said more than £130 million will be spent on measures including redundancy terms, skills retraining and help with job seeking.

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