Aberavon Member of Parliament and Assembly Member call on the Government and Tata Steel to guarantee their long-term commitment the British Steel Industry, following Tata Steel’s announced intention to form a joint venture with ThyssenKrupp

Commenting on the announcement by Tata Steel that they have decided to put the sale process on the back burner, and to explore the possibility of forming a joint venture with ThyssenKrupp, Stephen Kinnock, Member of Parliament for Aberavon, and David Rees, Welsh Assembly Member for Aberavon, said:

“Steel workers and their families have been put through hell over the last weeks and months, and they will be forgiven for greeting today’s announcement with a degree of scepticism, and concern.

“Any developments that offer the possibility of investment and engagement that would secure a sustainable future for the British steel industry are welcome, in principle. However, in practice there are serious questions to be answered around the joint venture proposal.

“We know that ThyssenKrupp has consistently expressed interest in merging with the Dutch branch of Tata Steel, but we are not aware of any convincing evidence of them showing an interest in Tata Steel’s UK operations, until now. The central concern is therefore that once the joint venture has been finalised then Tata Steel’s current UK operations, including Port Talbot, might not receive the support and investment they require.

“Clear assurances are therefore urgently required that the planned joint venture would in no way diminish Port Talbot and the rest of Tata Steel’s UK Strip Products Division, to the advantage of the Dutch operation.

“We now trust that Tata Steel, ThyssenKrupp and the British Government will provide guarantees about their long term investment strategy for the UK business, including the two blast furnaces in Port Talbot, and they must also offer clarity about the future working relationship between the British and Dutch operations.

“These guarantees should also clearly indicate that Tata Steel is committed to the business through thick and thin. Steel is a fiercely competitive global industry, cyclical in nature, with up’s and down’s being a constant feature of the business. It is therefore vital that Tata Steel provides cast-iron assurances that it will not be knocked off balance by a future down-turn, and that we will not be back to square one a year or two from now.

“The workforce are currently in the midst of a painful restructuring, and so clarity is required regarding Tata Steel’s plans on cost cutting. It is therefore deeply concerning to hear, in an interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Chatterjee state that there “can’t be guarantees” regarding possible redundancies in the future.

“The British Government and Tata Steel must also guarantee that the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) will not be dumped into the Pension Protection Fund.

“The UK government only engaged with this steel crisis when it became a public relations disaster for them, and when David Cameron and his colleagues started to feel the relentless pressure of the Save Our Steel Campaign, and of Labour MP’s having raised the issue over 230 times in the House of Commons.

“For too long the approach of the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Secretary of State could be best described as a devastating mixture of incompetence and indifference. Having been forced out of their stupor, and under a new Prime Minister, the government must now adopt a truly engaged and active approach to the sector.

“The risk is that Tata Steel’s announcement will send the government back into complacency mode, and this cannot be allowed to happen. Rather, the incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May, must re-double the government’s efforts to support the long-term competitiveness and productivity of the UK steel industry by acting on energy costs, procurement and Chinese dumping. Mrs May must also end her government’s opposition to any form of industrial strategy for steel.

“We will remain vigilant, and will continue to press both Tata Steel and the UK government to make good on their promises and undertakings.”

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