Minister Sajid Javid to face Port Talbot steelworkers amid industry crisis


The Government has been outlining its response to the crisis gripping the steel industry as workers at the country's biggest steel plant await a visit from the Business Secretary.

Sajid Javid is travelling to Port Talbot in South Wales to meet managers and staff after having to cut short a business trip to Australia to deal with the aftermath of Tata Steel's shock decision to sell its loss-making UK assets.

Chancellor George Osborne said the Government was doing everything that is "practicable and possible" to allow tougher tariffs on cheap steel.

Responding to accusations that import taxes were being blocked, Mr Osborne said Britain was working with other countries to make sure tariffs were in place on imports of unfairly cheap steel from countries such as China.

Speaking during a visit to Manchester, the Chancellor said: "First of all, it's a really difficult time for the steel workers and their families and we are doing everything that is practicable and possible to help those families, to help communities affected like Port Talbot and Scunthorpe, and to make sure that there is a long-term future for Britain's steel industry.

"There's a global crisis in steel, you go to all these other countries, they have got similar problems because the price has fallen.

"What we are doing is both action at home - we are cutting the taxes on energy bills at steel plants to help them, we are making sure that as we build things like the new high speed railway we are using British steel - and then internationally we are working with others, including other European countries, to make sure there are tariffs when you get imports of unfairly cheap steel from countries like China, and Britain has been leading that action with the people who pool together the other European countries and said let's act together, because acting together of course, we are much more likely to have an impact than if we are acting alone."

Ministers have been accused of prioritising trade links with China over support for the UK steel industry.

The Business Secretary will insist the Government is on the side of workers and will promise that independent advisers will be appointed by the Government once Tata begins the formal sales process.

Mr Javid said: "I'm going to Port Talbot to meet staff and management, who are understandably extremely anxious about their future.

"I will listen to them and I want to reassure them myself that the Government is on their side in working hard to achieve a long-term solution for them, for the region and for the wider UK steel industry.

"Whilst we can't change the status of the global steel market, we can and are playing a positive role in securing a sustainable future."

Mr Javid will also defend the response to the crisis, insisting that without the Government's intervention steelworkers in Port Talbot could have been faced with the immediate closure of the plant rather than it being put up for sale.

A spokesman for the Community union said: "Steelworkers across the country will be shocked that it has taken this long for the Government to finally wake up to the crisis facing our steel industry.

"Sajid Javid cannot simply arrive at Port Talbot and read out his list of 'achievements' - this week's news is proof that Government action thus far has been woefully inadequate."

Unite Wales secretary Andy Richards said: "Steelworkers at Port Talbot and across Tata steel will want to know just exactly what Sajid Javid intends to do to safeguard their industry, their livelihoods and their communities.

"So far all they have received is tea and sympathy from afar with no real concrete solutions for the industrial crisis facing the nation."