I am deeply concerned about the situation. I think it is absolutely clear that the UK steel industry is absolutely vital for the country. We will look at all viable options to keep steelmaking continuing in Port Talbot. We also are very much alive to the human cost. We want to make sure that no worker is left behind, so where workers are affected, that we’re doing everything we possibly can to help them and their families.
Options - renationalise
At this stage, given the announcement from Tata has just come out, it is important we talk to them properly and understand the exact situation and look at all viable options. I don’t think that nationalisation is going to be the solution, particularly if you take into account the big challenges the industry faces. But there are solutions to this once we understand the situation better and we want to make sure that we explore all of them.
Who is going to buy a business that is losing a million pounds a day?
Well actually Tata has announced recently another part of their steel business in the UK that they were planning to close down, and a buyer has been found for that. Recently, there was an announcement for part of their business in Scotland where a buyer has been found. So I think there are buyers out there. It might require some kind of government support, and we are more than ready to look at all ways that we can provide commercial support to really secure the long-term future of steelmaking in Port Talbot.
How long would you give that support for?
I think we will look at all options. Right now it is too early to tell what options are exactly on the table, because we want to speak to potential buyers, but the good thing is that we have been in discussions with Tata for a number of weeks over a number of issues that they have faced. I spoke today to the head of Tata and we have his assurance that we will work together constructively to try and secure the long-term future of steelmaking in Port Talbot.
Message to workers and their families
I think this kind of news is absolutely devastating for a local community. For so many workers in a place where steelmaking has been the culture, the fabric of the community for such a long time, I am very much alive to that human cost, and my assurance to them is that the government will do everything it can to keep steelmaking in Port Talbot. And secondly, where workers are affected, to make sure that that impact is minimal and we do everything we can to help them and their families.