From the Sun on Sunday
THE fate of the British steel industry is in the Prime Minister’s hands.
His words and deeds over the next few days will determine the future of our manufacturing base — and of our national security.
Our focus for the crunch Tata board meeting last week was pressing them to back the Port Talbot turnaround plan.
Port Talbot is the key supplier to a network of plants across Britain, so it’s impossible to talk about the future of Port Talbot without talking about the rest of Britain. That’s why the Prime Minister must get a grip.
The worst-case scenario — full closure — was averted. That was thanks to the passionate Save Our Steel campaign of Community union, whose outstanding General Secretary, Roy Rickhuss, led our delegation to Mumbai.
It is essential the Prime Minister meets with Roy. March 29 was always going to be D-day for British steel, when the fate of 40,000 British workers would be decided.
But when our delegation flew to Mumbai the Government weren’t on the pitch. Their hands-off approach has come back to bite them. Panic button pressed, PM stumbling home to chaos, Business Secretary dragged back from Australia.
There is still no plan to support Tata whilst it looks for a buyer. Still no strategy for dealing with the dumping of Chinese steel. Still no clarity on other options like nationalisation.
The Government has a duty of care to the steel workers. Finding a buyer won’t be easy, so they must provide financial assistance for Tata to continue functioning, buying time for a new investor to be found. They should also consider taking on the UK pension liability. And they must get their priorities right on China.
They’ve led a scandalous campaign, blocking the European Commission’s plans to reform trade defence rules that would make it easier to stop Chinese steel dumping. Cameron and Co have been China’s chief cheerleaders for Market Economy Status, which would all but eliminate our ability to impose tariffs on over-produced, state-subsidised Chinese steel.
I say this to the Prime Minister — you can either be serious about defending Britain’s steel industry or you can roll out the red carpet for Beijing. You can’t have it both ways.
Workers in Port Talbot and across the UK make the finest steel money can buy.
It’s time for the Government to start treating them with the respect they deserve.