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Westminster accused of keeping Welsh Government in dark over steelworks announcement

19 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Port Talbot steelworks. Photo Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Emily Price

Westminster has been accused of keeping the Welsh Government in the dark over the announcement that thousands of jobs would be lost as a result of Port Talbot’s blast furnaces being shut down and replaced with a new electric arc furnace.

Last week, the UK Government announced it would pump £500m into Port Talbot steelworks as part of plans to produce “greener” steel – but as many as 3,000 workers are set to lose their jobs.

Port Talbot is the UK’s biggest steelworks, employing close to 4,000 workers, and it’s expected that the lions share of redundancies will be from people employed there.

In the House of Commons on Monday (September 19) Jessica Morden, MP for Newport East and Shadow Minister for Wales asked the Minister for Industry and Economic Security, Nusrat Ghani why there was no consultation with unions, workers and the Welsh Government.

“Inaction”

In the chamber, Ms Morden said: “We’ve seen years of inaction on steel from this government while watching other countries around the world proactively invest.

“But the investment announced on Friday means potential job losses, which will be deeply felt in Port
Talbot and across south Wales.

“Why was there no consultation with the unions and with the Welsh Government, who surely should
have a voice in ensuring a fair transition to decarbonisation?

Tata, the Indian conglomerate owner of the steelworks, employs around 8,000 people across the UK and will also invest about £750 million in the project.

But the company said on Friday the plans will lead to consultations over a “deep potential restructuring”.

In a separate statement, the department for business and trade said the deal will only safeguard around 5,000 jobs out of Tata’s total workforce.

“Failure”

Union leaders have expressed their anger at being shut out of talks between Tata and the Government has described the deal as a “disgrace”.

Also speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of the UK said: “After 13 years of failure, expectations of this government are not high.

“But even by their standards, spending half a billion pounds to make British steelworkers redundant is
a truly remarkable feat.

“Workers were promised repeatedly they’d be a part of this process and, quite rightly, they feel
betrayed by this announcement. It’s been done to them, not with them.”

The £1.25 billion furnaces are expected to be up and running within three years of getting regulatory and planning approvals.

Tata said last year its UK operations were under threat unless it secured Government funding to help it move to less carbon-intensive electric arc furnaces.

The deal also comes two months after parent firm Tata Group confirmed plans to build a £4 billion battery factory in the UK after also getting subsidies from the UK Government.

Speaking after leaving the chamber, Ms Morden added: “UK-made steel, with its skilled and dedicated
workforce, is of central importance in Britain’s journey to net zero.

“Ministers have failed to keep their commitments to work in partnership with trade union colleagues to
ensure a just transition to a green and prosperous future for Welsh steel.

“They have kept steelworkers and the Welsh Government in the dark, and this simply isn’t good
enough.”


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Barbara H.
Barbara H.
9 months ago

If the unemployment outcome is as grim as it appears, 3000 job losses in Port Talbot and across South Wales will be catastrophic. The fleas in Westminster playing their dictatorship games again.

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
9 months ago

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the UK Government didn’t liaise with Cardiff Bay over this issue. They have an anti-devolution agenda, and are determined to interpret the Welsh steel industry’s problems, and indeed any Welsh matter, as a ‘British’ issue.

Rob
Rob
9 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Very true. If this deal were to fall through for whatever reason then they will try to make sure that the Welsh Government get the blame for it.

Bachgen o Lerpwl
9 months ago
Reply to  Rob

What action have the Welsh government taken and what has Stephen said?

Gareth
Gareth
9 months ago

The Senedd is restricted in what it can do in situations such as this, as all ” fiscal monetary and economic policies” are reserved. Meaning only Westminster can act on such matters. The gov of Cymru have done the only thing they can, which is to “lobby” the Tory gov in London.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
9 months ago

The Tories hate DEVELOUTION to the 3 Celtic nations they are staunch unionists and believe it their divine right to control from England for England they are control freaks

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
9 months ago
Reply to  Dai Ponty

It also looks as if the Westminster folk have, as usual, not done any homework to understand what is needed here. Yes, electric arc furnaces for processing scrap will be useful, but they seem to have ignored the need to invest in ‘intermediate’ or green-er technologies to maintain the level of employment and the product portfolio. Of course the EU have looked at this whole issue from an EU wide perspective and published an interesting article in 2021 [Carbon free steel production] They are basically linking renewables generation with the production of green hydrogen as a means of preserving EU… Read more »

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