Minister says progress on securing Port Talbot steel plant’s future can’t wait until next Prime Minister is installed
Economy Minister Vaughn Gething says progress on talks to safeguard the future of Port Talbot steel plant can’t wait until the next Prime Minister is installed.
Earlier this week the new Welsh Secretary Sir Robert Buckland insisted it is “only right” that a decision on taxpayer support to safeguard Tata’s UK steel plants will have to wait until the new prime minister is in place.
His comments came after the Tata Group threatened to close down Port Talbot steelworks unless it received financial support from the UK Government to help reduce carbon emissions.
The Welsh Government has warned that further delays on agreeing subsidies risk increasing costs and greater anxiety for the workforce and local community.
Mr Gething said he would be raising these issues when he meets the new Secretary of State for Wales.
“Our focus is to explore all avenues to secure a successful, low carbon future for Welsh steel. “This goal is entirely possible, but it requires action and grip from the UK Government, “ the minister said in a statement.
“The detailed work required in the coming weeks cannot all be deferred until a new Prime Minister is in place and we expect progress to be made in the intervening period.
“Steelmaking is of fundamental importance to both the Welsh and UK economy and the Welsh Government will continue to stand up for our steel industry and the dedicated and skilled workforce it employs.”
Tata is reportedly seeking around £1.5 billion in UK state aid to help fund the closure of two blast furnaces at Port Talbot and their replacement with two electric arc furnaces that are less carbon intensive.
The company, which employs 7,890 people at the steelworks, told the Financial Times that they would only be able to continue with the government help.
“A transition to a greener steel plant is the intention that we have . . . But this is only possible with financial help from the government,” Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chair of Tata Group, told the newspaper.
Sir Robert said on Tuesday, the UK Government was committed to maintaining a domestic steel industry but major decisions on the use of public money would have to wait until Boris Johnson’s replacement is in office.
He would not confirm Tata’s £1.5 billion demand – “we need to be careful about the figures” – but confirmed some element of state aid was being discussed.
The discussions “have obviously been based for some time on an element of Government subsidy to help the transition” from the old furnaces to “something much less carbon heavy”, Sir Robert told reporters.
“It’s something the British Government strongly supports, we believe fundamentally in the sovereign capability of the UK to produce steel and Port Talbot is the epicentre of that.
“I think it’s only right that those decisions are made by the new prime minister.
“That doesn’t mean that the lines aren’t open between now and then, far from it.”
The Tory leadership contest between Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak is set to conclude in early September, with the winner replacing Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.