With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a brief statement on Britain’s steel industry.
Yesterday, Tata’s board met in Mumbai and reviewed progress on the sale of their UK steelmaking assets.
Ahead of that meeting I travelled to India for discussions with Tata’s leadership.
I arrived back in London just a few hours ago.
I used the opportunity to stress the importance of Tata continuing to run a responsible and effective sales process - something I commend them for doing so far.
I raised various challenges and issues that have been flagged to me by potential buyers.
And I reiterated the government’s willingness to support bidders who can deliver a sustainable and successful future for British steelmaking.
Tata, understandably, wants the sale process to be as swift and straightforward as possible.
However, they assured me that they remain absolutely committed to being a responsible seller.
There are a number of credible bids on the table, all of which we discussed.
Tata is now studying the proposals closely before making a decision on which to take through to the next stage of the sales process.
We will be continuing our dialogue with the bidders and with Tata while this happens.
This remains, quite rightly, an independent commercial process.
It is not the government’s job to pick a winner or back a specific bid.
What we can do is listen to Tata, listen to bidders and work with everyone involved to remove potential barriers to a sale.
For example, we are today launching a consultation on options to delivery clarity and security for British Steel Pension Scheme members.
This follows representations from both the trustees of the scheme itself and from Tata.
And let me just thank my RHF the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and everyone in his team, for all their hard work in making this consultation happen.
The House will appreciate that commercial confidentiality stops me offering a running commentary on the sale process.
Indeed all the bidders have themselves signed non-disclosure agreements.
I will, however, continue to update the House on progress whenever it is appropriate to do so.
And I will continue to work around the clock to support British steelmaking and British steelworkers.
That support has already seen tens of millions of pounds of compensation paid to energy intensive industries, and will see them exempted from renewable policy costs.
It has seen us become the first government to implement new guidelines making it easier for the public sector to buy British steel.
And it has seen us consistently standing up for British steel in Europe, including calling for tariffs on a range of Chinese imports where there is evidence of unfair trade.
Mr Speaker, as yesterday’s demonstration by steelworkers reminded us, this is ultimately all about people.
About the hardworking men and women who make British steel the best in the world.
We owe it to them – and their families and communities – to do everything we can to secure the future of their industry.
That’s why my colleague, the Business Minister, and I have been fighting for British steel since long before the current crisis hit the headlines.
And that’s why we will continue to fight for British steel for as long as it takes.
We’re very pleased to have been supported in that fight by the First Minister of Wales.
We’re also receiving constructive support from the trade unions, particularly Community.
By putting aside political point-scoring and focussing on what really matters we are, together, forging a secure and sustainable future for British steelmaking.
I commend this statement to the House.