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Steel Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th April 2016.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby 12:00 am, 13th April 2016

What assessment he has made of risks to the future of the steel industry in Wales.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The steel industry is currently dealing with unparalleled global economic conditions and the UK is deeply concerned by the social and economic impact that they are having in south Wales. While we cannot change the status of the global steel market, our objective remains to overcome the challenges and play a positive role in achieving a sustainable future for the steel industry in Wales and across the UK.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he agree that in order to secure the future not only of the Port Talbot site but of Tata sites around the UK, no option should be ruled out?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the way in which he has represented the interests of his constituents and of those who depend on steelmaking in his area. He recognises the way in which the plants are interlinked and he has been working closely with the Business Secretary and me to help to support a secure future. I can reassure him that no stone will be left unturned to secure a long-term future for the Corby plant as well as for every other plant across the UK.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Europe), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader

I welcome the Secretary of State and his deputy to their new positions and assure you, Sir, that I will endeavour to give them ample opportunity to explain themselves with my questions. Why did the Secretary of State not travel to Mumbai for the Tata board meeting of 29 March?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The Government have been in close dialogue with Tata steel for many months. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary was at Tata the month before the Mumbai meeting and had engaged with its directors well before that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be grateful that as a result of the Government’s actions we managed to avert the immediate closure of the plant and propose a sale.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Europe), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader

I will give the Secretary of State another go. Did he fail to attend the meeting because a more senior Cabinet colleague told him not to do so? Did he decide not to go off his own bat? Or was it more down to the fact that, as the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise said of her boss the Business Secretary to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs yesterday,

“He would not have gone to Australia had he known that they were going to close the ruddy works”?

What stopped our Secretary of State? Was it the Cabinet’s pecking order, was it indolence, or was it just plain ignorance?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I am disappointed with the hon. Gentleman’s approach. Steelworkers want to see Government and Opposition, and the unions and the company, work together to secure a long-term future. The Government have been in a long-term dialogue, which is demonstrated by the ongoing sales process as opposed to the plant facing the risk of immediate closure.

Photo of Byron Davies Byron Davies Conservative, Gower

Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he and the Wales Office will work with all relevant Government Departments to ensure the long-term future of Port Talbot, particularly for the workers who live in my constituency?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend. He met the Business Secretary last week, and he and I have had several conversations about support for his constituents who depend on the plant, demonstrating its regional impact. The Government are determined to do everything possible to secure a long-term, viable future for the plant.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

As the Secretary of State well knows, at sites across Wales, such as Shotton, Llanwern, Orb, Trostre and Port Talbot, Tata steelworkers produce a whole range of specialist products. What assurances has he obtained from Tata that it will not siphon off the production of the most profitable lines to their plants aboard? What guarantees has he received that the intellectual property will remain with the Welsh operations in order to attract a suitable buyer and safeguard thousands of Welsh jobs?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Lady makes an important point about the sale of the operations in the United Kingdom, which demonstrates the positive engagement between the UK Government and Tata Steel that has resulted in its decision to sell off all its operations, rather than simply to dispose of what some might see as the more profitable assets.