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Sunak ‘profoundly wrong’ not to speak to First Minister over Tata job losses – shadow minister

23 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds. PhotoMaja Smiejkowska/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak’s decision not to call First Minister Mark Drakeford after Tata Steel announced it would cut jobs in Port Talbot was “profoundly wrong” Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds has said.

Tata Steel confirmed plans to close blast furnaces at its plant in Port Talbot on Friday (19 January) with the loss of more than 3,000 jobs.

About 2,800 jobs will go over the next 18 months, with a further 300 to be lost.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Reynolds said: “I do think the decision of the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary to refuse to even have a phone call with the First Minister of Wales about this matter was profoundly wrong.

“Anyone who is a supporter of the Union wants to see productive relationships across all UK governments and I think the Prime Minister’s behaviour reflects extremely badly on him, on this occasion.”


Intervening, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said: “I, as the chairman of the transition board supporting all those workers who face the loss of their jobs, offered to speak to the First Minister last week. He’s been too busy to do so, so far.

“And he’s known about this potential problems since September and only when it appeared in all over the papers did he suddenly appear to take an interest and want to make phone calls.”

Mr Reynolds replied: “I have to say I think that’s a pathetic response. I mean no discourtesy but I think that’s pathetic, it is entirely reasonable for the First Minister of Wales to see a conversation with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”

Earlier the shadow minister said he was “begging” the Government not to make an irreversible decision on Wales’ steel industry.

He said: “To state the obvious, we could decarbonise anything if by shutting it down, and the cheapest path will likely always involve outsourcing most of our industrial production to other places.

“But if we do that, and this is what the Government’s plan for Port Talbot is, we will spend millions of pounds, we will see huge job losses and actually we will see global emissions rise as we effectively offshore our emission and then we claim that is progress, and this would be a fundamental political mistake with potentially enormous ramifications for the future of the transitions to net zero, and we should know this from our own past.”

He added: “How you manage a transition is fundamental, and in the past as a country we have got this wrong. Levelling-up, supposedly the flagship policy from the Government, is surely a recognition that the scars of those years, of the impact of deindustrialisation are still felt in many parts of the UK today. Yet the Government risk making the same mistakes all over again.”

In his conclusion, Mr Reynolds said: “So minister I’m asking you, quite honestly I am begging you, consider the arguments, consider what is really value for money, and do not make decisions that are irreversible and prevent a far better outcome in future.”

‘A difficult time’

Business minister Nusrat Ghani said: “I know this is a difficult time, but without our investment we would have risked losing steel-making at Port Talbot… While the plans Tata have proposed hold the potential to turn… the economic fortunes around, because it is losing £1.5 million a day.”

She also told MPs: “We are holding Tata to account, ensuring this transition is managed properly so that every employee receives the support that they deserve. That includes £100 million for a dedicated transition board.”

She added: “Closing the Port Talbot plant would cause immeasurable damage to the town and would be harmful for the UK as a whole, risking all 8,000 jobs Tata Steel provides across the UK, and not to mention around 12,500 jobs in that steel supply chain.

“That’s why the Government is investing £500 million of a total of £1.25 billion towards securing the future of Port Talbot steel, an industry that is so inextricably linked to the community’s history and identity.

“This investment is a huge step forwards, fortifying UK steel production at a time when traditional blast furnace steel-making has stopped being viable.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

He’s batting for India and its steel industry…

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
5 months ago

No doubt , when he has finished fleecing the UK he will move back whence he came to USA? . and continue amassing wealth there. He could not give a damn for the UK let alone Wales! Just a temporary ‘career opportunity’ which when he leaves means he can charge thousands for ‘Speeches’. Like all ‘modern Tories AND some Labour ‘Front Benchers’ , all governed by self promotion and self interests. WE, really do not count in their view!

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
5 months ago

It’s obvious Sunak doesn’t give a toss what Drakeford thinks. Never will. Total contempt. As for Davies, he’s supposed to represent us here in Wales but all he just keeps on doing is sucking up to his masters in Westminster. Wales and Welsh jobs have never been high on the UK government’s priority list, no matter what they say about greener technology.

5 months ago

“Union” is a bit of a rose tinted take on what we’re actually a part of. If you take what they say on face value it is utterly baffling why self-declared progressives “care about the Union”. As I wrote some time ago, there’s absolutely nothing progressive about the UK State. It’s an imperial artifice, the extension of the political hegemony of the upper class. In short, it is the Tory State. So I say what I see. I see a Labour Party wishing to possess political power on the same terms as the Tories, I see them courting the conservative… Read more »

5 months ago

The discussion was particularly odd when the minister for lies stood up and accused the Labour Party of having no plans. 17:33 on Hansard. Cons saying losing jobs are good, and the Minster for Wales was sat next to her doing his bit of supporting the government.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
5 months ago

Sunak doesn’t recognise our country and so believes he himself is our First Minister. He then tasks his attack dog, The Secretary of State for keeping Wales down to come out and do the job he is employed to do which is to steamroller our democracy and keep us quiet.

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