Business Secretary stops short of offering to fund Sheffield steelworks until buyer is found

The Business Secretary has stopped short of offering to support the steelworks in Stocksbridge until a buyer can be found.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 11:45 am

Kwasi Kwarteng said he was monitoring developments closely and stood ready to support employees.

But he did not commit to keep the 760-strong site open – despite pleas from Stocksbridge Tory MP Miriam Cates.

Crisis-torn Liberty Steel has put the works up for sale, as well as two ‘downstream’ plants, the narrow strip mill at Brinsworth in Rotherham and Performance Steels at West Bromwich, to pay off debts.

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Liberty Speciality Steels, Stocksbridge. Picture: Chris Etchells

Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates wrote to Mr Kwarteng urging him help find a buyer for the site and ‘consider providing financial assistance’ to ensure steelmaking could continue.

Liberty boss Sanjeev Gupta said he wanted to focus on the firm’s main Rotherham plant which he hopes will produce up to 2m tonnes of steel a year from scrap.

Mr Kwarteng said: “While I cautiously welcome progress being made to secure the future of Liberty Steel’s site in Rotherham, significant uncertainty remains for workers at those sites up for sale.

“I am monitoring developments closely and remain in regular contact with Liberty and the trade unions.

Liberty Speciality Steels Stocksbridge Re-melting section

“As Business Secretary, delivering a strong and sustainable steel sector is an absolute priority.

“There is a future for steel-making in the UK, and I remain committed to supporting the sector's low carbon transition to protect high-quality jobs.

“As always, we stand ready to support Liberty Steel's dedicated employees and their families affected by any developments. I'll be meeting the company, trade unions and local MPs over the coming days.”

A Government spokesman said it was ‘first and foremost’ the responsibility of the company to manage commercial decisions for the future of the organisation.

The Government had supported the steel sector, including providing over £500m in recent years to help with the costs of electricity, he added. And the new Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy sets out, for the first time, the Government’s comprehensive assessment of how industry, including the steel sector, can decarbonise in line with net zero, in a way that supports competitiveness and clean growth.

In 2019, Scunthorpe-based British Steel went into liquidation and was run by the Official Receiver, backed by £600m from government, for five months until it was sold to Chinese firm Jingye.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.