Sajid David was listed as a participant last month at a US conference organised by a rightwing libertarian thinktank, which took place after a delegation of Labour MPs had failed to secure a meeting with him to press their concerns about the future of Tata steel in the weeks leading up to the crisis.
Welsh Labour MPs led by Stephen Kinnock had sought a meeting with the business secretary, but were instead granted a meeting with Javid’s junior, Anna Soubry, on 3 March.
Javid was in the UK on that day, addressing the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference, but is listed as speaker on the following two days at a conference organised in a southern US resort by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an influential thinktank and lobby group that is vociferously opposed to state intervention.
The business secretary came under criticism for being out of the country last week as the crisis surrounding Tata steel exploded with the news that the Indian group planned to withdraw from the UK after rejecting a turnaround plan for Port Talbot, the nation’s biggest steelworks. He cut short a visit to Australia and flew back to UK to visit the plant on Friday.
The Labour delegation that attempted to meet him in early March had wanted to discuss the future of the Welsh steel industry, and in particular Tata’s commitment to Wales.
Javid has had close ties with the AEI, which is funded by American billionaires the Koch brothers. Parliament’s register of members’ interests shows that he accepted thousands of pounds from the thinktank in the previous two years to attend events there, covering travel expenses, subsistence and accommodation. It included £6,094.56 to attend the Sea Island conference in Georgia in March last year, and more than £3,000 to visit in 2014.
The thinktank is opposed to the type of state intervention that the beleaguered workers at Tata’s Port Talbot steelworks are holding out for. It has been heavily involved for decades in banging the drum for untrammelled free enterprise capitalism.
The programme for the AEI event, which takes place behind closed doors and does not publish minutes or details of speeches, states that Javid was on a panel on 5 March discussing “The Collapse of Europe? Russia, Greece and Brexit”. Javid was also a morning speaker the day before on a discussion about “Challenges Abroad and Implications for the United States”.
The Labour MP Nick Smith tweeted a picture showing him and other Welsh MPs preparing to meet Soubry on 3 March.
Javid’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills referred queries about his attendance at the AEI event to the Conservative party press office. It had not responded to a query about the visit at the time of
This article was written by Ben Quinn, for theguardian.com on Sunday 3rd April 2016 13.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010