The Future of Wales’s Steel Industry

1. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language – in the Senedd at on 5 June 2024.

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Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

(Translated)

7. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on discussions with trade unions and Tata Steel regarding the future of Wales’s steel industry? OQ61204

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:07, 5 June 2024

We continue to engage closely with the trade unions and the company to do all that we can to minimise job losses and ensure a sustainable future for Welsh steel making.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

Cabinet Secretary, the current plans of Tata and the current UK Government would not see the UK and Wales keep its strategic steel industry, which is so important, as we know, for so many other aspects of security and economic health in Wales and beyond. We know that in around four weeks' time we may well have a new UK Government—a Labour UK Government—with £3 billion on the table for steel in the UK. That's potentially transformative, isn't it, in terms of the picture that Tata look at as to what is possible and the support that's available for steel. So, how do you as the Cabinet Secretary for economy in the Welsh Government look at the possibilities that this opens up in terms of your discussions with Tata, given as well that the trade unions are taking industrial action and it's crystal clear that they are determined and local communities are determined to do all they can to resist the current plans?

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour 2:08, 5 June 2024

That's a really important question, and I feel strongly that one of the reasons the unions are so committed to the course of action is because they have an alternative plan that is credible and developed by experts in steel production. We would have liked to have seen Tata adopt those plans, which I think everyone, including Tata, accepted were credible plans. I think that, as John Griffiths was saying, the imminent prospect of a new Government, a Labour Government, we hope, which has a commitment to £3 billion—. I hear Members say that that isn't a commitment; it is a commitment, and it will change the context fundamentally, I think, to the decisions that have been taken, and that will enable decisions to lead to a more just transition to that sustainable steel sector of the future that I know that he feels very passionately about, and avoid the job losses at the scale that we are contemplating at the moment. So, we will continue as a Government to urge Tata Steel at every opportunity to avoid making decisions that are irreversible in the context of a rapidly changing landscape.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative 2:10, 5 June 2024

Cabinet Secretary, we often hear from this Welsh Labour Government about the pride that you take in your party's roots embedded within the Welsh community itself, with steelworkers at the heart, alongside your close relationship with trade unions, with these two factors being intrinsically linked. Yet, despite this incredibly deep-rooted foundation of the party, and the close working relationship with the unions, you somehow have had nothing to offer Tata Steel, or the steelworkers across Wales, by form of concrete support. No doubt, I'm sure, you've heard this, but I will refresh everyone’s memory—the UK Conservative Government had put £100 million on the table towards the creation of a transition board and around about £500 million towards the arc furnace itself, securing thousands of jobs and ensuring steel continues to be made in Wales, going forward.

They always say you should watch how people act when times get tough. Well, we've all seen the Welsh Labour Government really doesn't have the back of the steel community, including those in my region of south-east Wales. Cabinet Secretary, you claim to support them, yet this Welsh Labour Government hasn't offered a single penny of backing during their time of need. So, Cabinet Secretary, how do you propose to actually support the steel communities if you offer no financial aid, as all we've seen so far, since the formation of this Government, is discussions in Mumbai with very little to show for it?

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:11, 5 June 2024

If the Member had participated in the debate yesterday on this matter, she would have heard me correct the record, which I feel compelled to do again, I'm afraid. The UK Government hasn't put £100 million on the table. That isn't what even the UK Government are saying. In fact, they've put £80 million on the table, and, if any Member is interested in knowing how much of that has been spent, the answer is 'not a single penny'. I also took the opportunity yesterday of explaining—. She shakes her head; I'm correcting the record on her behalf.

In relation to what the Welsh Government has committed to, I mentioned yesterday to Sam Kurtz, in response to a similar line of questioning from him, that the Welsh Government has committed its employability and skills programmes, has adapted its personal learning accounts programmes. The first programme is worth, probably, across Wales, about £25 million, and the second, across Wales, about £21 million, and that is already being spent. So, I don't think anybody is interested in political knockabout when there are 9,000 plus jobs at stake, and I would urge the Member opposite to resist the temptation to make political points. There is a debate to be had—[Interruption.] There is a debate to be had, but I think it's important and respectful for that to be based on the facts.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 2:12, 5 June 2024

(Translated)

Question 8 [OQ61200] is withdrawn. Question 9, Adam Price.