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Prime Minister couldn’t ‘find time’ to discuss TATA Steel – Mark Drakeford

23 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal/PA Wire

Emily Price

Rishi Sunak couldn’t “find time” to discuss Tata Steel job losses in Port Talbot, Mark Drakeford has claimed.

Last week Tata decided to press ahead with a shift to low carbon production at its site in Port Talbot, south Wales.

The move to close two of the firm’s blast furnaces will lead to the loss of up to 2,800 jobs and more which supply the plant with goods and services.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday (January 23), Mr Drakeford said that he had reached out to the Prime Minister the week before to discuss the impact on Port Talbot steelworkers.

Call

He said: “On Thursday of last week, when it became clear that the company were to make their announcement on the Friday, I wrote immediately to the Prime Minister asking for a telephone call with him on Friday so that we could jointly discuss how we could best respond to the emerging picture.

“By half past eight in the morning on Friday I’d had a reply from the Prime Minister saying that he couldn’t find time to meet or talk to me that day. I do think that is genuinely shocking.”

Welsh Conservative Senedd Members shouted out across the Chamber at Mr Drakeford who cut across them saying: “I do hope you’re not defending that. Nobody outside this room will hear Members of the Conservative Party shouting at me, but let me make sure that people do know that they’re shouting at me to defend the fact that their Prime Minister was unprepared to talk to the First Minister of Wales on that day.”

The First Minister said he was “genuinely baffled” about why the Prime Minister “did not feel it was a priority” to speak with him about Tata Steel.

Leader of Plaid Cymru Rhun ap Iorwerth said the attitude of the UK Government towards the steel industry in Wales was “shameful”.

He added that the Welsh Conservatives defence of the Prime Minister was “disturbing”.

The leader of the opposition, Andrew RT Davies asked the First Minister what financial support would be made available to Tata.

He said: “It is a fact that a transition board has been established, jointly, I understand, with the company and the UK Government, and the Welsh Government have a role with the Minister for Economy sitting as vice-chairman on that transition board.

“Can you outline what the aspiration is and what the hopes are of the Welsh Government for that transition board to make a real difference in transitioning to the new steel-making capacity at Port Talbot and, importantly, supporting the workforce in that journey?”

The First Minister responded describing the Tata Steel job losses as “devastating news for the whole of the United Kingdom”.

Alternative

He said: “We believe that there is a credible alternative that would sustain jobs at Port Talbot and would sustain indigenous steel making in the United Kingdom.

“That is the Syndex plan, which the trade unions have jointly funded to bring about. It was described as a credible plan by the company themselves.

“I say to the company what I know others have said: I hope they will not make any irreversible decisions, because with a general election happening this year, there is an alternative future for the steel industry for the United Kingdom, and I want Port Talbot to be part of that.”

Tata is pledging a £130 million support package to help workers retrain or find new jobs but unions have warned the decision will be devastating for the south Wales economy as well as the steel industry.

Plaid Cymru’s Senedd leader also raised the issue of Tata’s announcement during his time to quiz the First Minister on Tuesday.

He accused the UK Government of a “lack of willingness” to recognise the importance of the steel industry to Wales.

Cost

Mr Iorwerth said: “Now, in a general election year the steel industry is looking for a signal that a potential future government would commit in a way that the current Government has not.

“But whilst money is of course top of the list in many, many ways, we also need a plan, and it’s clear from the Tata announcement that the absence of an industrial strategy by either UK or Welsh Government is costing us dearly.”

Dozens of steel workers made the journey from south Wales to Westminster on Tuesday to urge the UK Government to protect the future of the industry.

The Port Talbot site is Tata’s biggest employer in the UK, with around 4,000 workers based there.


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Frank
Frank
5 months ago

He “couldn’t find time” probaby because he was too busy sorting out his and his wife’s finances.

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago

UK PM worried about his power base and stopping g boats but the UK is burning on his watch. He don’t care about jobs, just his image and what global company he will run away to.

Gareth
Gareth
5 months ago

Mr Drakeford, to quote you, Boris Johnson ” aggressively ignored the Welsh gov ” , Liz Truss called you a ” lower energy Jeremy corby” while not talking to you, and Sunak just hasn’t got time for you or our Gov. They dont care , they never have or ever will. We can all see it, that is why more people than ever are supporting independence , wake up.

Last edited 5 months ago by Gareth
Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
5 months ago

Why did Mark Drakeford find it shocking that the Prime Minister wouldn’t speak to him? For hundreds of years Cymru hasn’t been prioritised. Why do people in the Welsh based Labour Party think this will ever change?

Dewi Evans
Dewi Evans
5 months ago

It’s symbolic that whereas Wales usually has to put up with scraps our steel industry will now have to depend on scrap!

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
5 months ago

I AM SHOUTING THIS ITS ABOUT BLOODY TIME WELSH PEOPLE WOKE TO THE FACT TORIES ARE AN ENGLISH NATIONALIST PARTY AND THEY LOOK ON WALES AS PART OF THE OLD ENGLISH EMPIRE THEY NEVER HAVE OR NEVER WILL CARE ABOUT WALES rant over

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

Well Mr Drakeford, how does it feel to be an untouchable ?

Karl
Karl
5 months ago

Sunak is offshoring our carbon emissions. He don’t want to talk to anyone that might question his fake green policies. Or why the brexit hell is not protecting jobs. It will be interesting when we have no steel and produce goods to export, which fail the rules of origin checks, due to foreign parts at levels too high.

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