The Prime Minister will chair a meeting to discuss the crisis gripping the country’s steel industry, amid warnings that Tata Steel’s decision to sell its UK business could cost 40,000 jobs.
David Cameron will speak to ministers in Downing Street today (March 31) about the issues sparked by Indian firm Tata’s decision on Tuesday (March 29), which left the future of steelworks in Stocksbridge and Rotherham in doubt.
Analysis by think tank IPPR found that up to 40,000 jobs could be lost in steelworking communities such as those in South Yorkshire if no buyer is found for Tata’s UK businesses. The company employs 15,000 people in its 15 UK sites, but IPPR believes a further 25,000 jobs in the supply chain depend on these plants.
The largest plant is in Port Talbot, South Wales, where there are currently around 4,000 workers and a further 6,600 dependent jobs in the supply chain. South Yorkshire is home to Tata’s speciality steels division, where Lianne Deeming is acting managing director.
It employs 831 at a meltshop and rolling mill in Stocksbridge, 1,235 at the Aldwarke melt shop and Thrybergh rolling mill on a huge site (usually referred to as the Thrybergh site) in Rotherham and 106 at a narrow strip mill in Brinsworth, also in Rotherham.
Tata shed 550 jobs in South Yorkshire last year, 490 of them from the Thrybergh site in Rotherham.
Yesterday South Yorkshire MPs called on the Government to act quickly to secure the future of the UK steel industry. Unions have accused ministers of sending mixed messages after the Government said 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. Mr Corbyn has started an online petition calling for a parliamentary debate on the issue, which has already reached the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger that debate.
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, but the Welsh Assembly 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 steel making 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.”
David Cameron could raise the issue with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi when the pair attend an international summit in Washington.