EU ministers to discuss crisis in the steel industry


An emergency meeting of EU ministers is to be held to discuss the crisis gripping the steel industry.

The move was announced by Business Secretary Sajid Javid who held talks in Brussels yesterday.

Unions had described the meeting as a "PR stunt " as scores of steel workers from across the country lobbied MPs in Parliament to press for urgent help for the industry following a series of job losses.

Thousands of job cuts have been announced in recent days and there are fears of more redundancies.

Mr Javid said his request for an emergency meeting with senior European ministers to discuss the pressures faced by the steel industry had been granted.

Agreement has been reached that an emergency council will be held.

Following talks with Luxembourg, which holds the European Union (EU) presidency, it has been agreed that this will take place within the next 10 working days.

Mr Javid said: "I have been lobbying member states and met European commissioners to drive up the importance of this issue. I have called for an urgent EU Council meeting on steel, and I am pleased the Luxembourg presidency has agreed that this will take place within the next 10 working days. I am determined this council leads to swift action, not just a talking shop."

The Prime Minister told the Commons that steel and other energy intensive industries will get refunds for energy policy costs once the European Union makes a decision on state aid.

David Cameron said that once Brussels decides whether to give the Government approval to support the industry, steelworks will have energy costs refunded immediately and until 2020.

An Opposition Day debate on steel was held in the Commons yesterday when the Government was criticised over its handling of the crisis.

But a motion by Labour, which called for the Government to support the steel industry and take immediate action to protect it, was defeated by 307 votes to 280.

A Conservative amendment, in which it stated MPs note their concern and agree all parties should work together to help the industry, was approved unopposed.

Thousands of job cuts have been announced in recent weeks by Tata Steel and SSI in Redcar, Scunthorpe and Scotland, with cheap imports and high energy and emissions costs being blamed.

Further losses are threatened at steel processing giant Caparo Industries, which has gone into administration.

Workers wore T-shirts bearing the slogan Save Our Steel as they gathered in Westminster, saying they wanted to impress on ministers the urgency of the crisis.

The Unite and Community trade unions organised the lobby amid fears of fresh job cuts.