Javid to address MPs as deal to save Scunthorpe steel plant beckons

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid will address MPs about the crisis in the steel industry as a deal securing thousands of jobs at Tata’s Scunthorpe plant is expected to be secured.

The business secretary is hoping to announce the news to parliament on Monday that the steelworks, which has been on the market since 2014, has been purchased by Greybull Capital.

He will also give an update on whether there has been any progress in securing a buyer for the rest of Tata’s UK operations, with up to 40,000 jobs still at risk.

Javid has held a series of meetings with potential buyers including Sanjeev Gupta, the executive chairman of Liberty House. He has also travelled to Mumbai to speak to the Tata chairman, Cyrus Mistry, after the company said it would sell its British assets, which are losing £2.5m a day.

Roy Rickhuss, the general secretary of the Community union, who previously travelled to India to meet Tata executives, said he would welcome good news for the industry in Scunthorpe. He remained optimistic about a sale of the other parts of the company, which he argued were still a “viable business”.

Community believes that an initial investment of £1.5bn – £2bn over a 10-year period could save plants, including the main site in Port Talbot, which employ 15,000 people. Many more jobs in the supply chain are reliant on the industry.

On Monday, 13 steel workers from the 13 plants impacted by Tata’s decision will go to Westminster to lobby parliament. Stephen Kinnock, the MP for Port Talbot, is hoping that they can address a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour party on Monday evening. Javid will also meet MPs from other steelmaking areas.

Stephen Doughty, the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said: “The question on the lips of steel MPs tomorrow will be whether Sajid Javid will put anything new or substantive on the table to help save our steel industry, or whether it will be just more warm words like we have seen so many times in the past.

“Has all the belated jetsetting of him and the foreign secretary in recent days secured any real commitments? Or were they just a last-ditch attempt to look busy and make up for months of failure?”

The fundamentals had not changed, Doughty argued. “We need robust action on Chinese dumping, energy prices and procurement to help secure the whole industry, as well as the immediate action to save Tata jobs.”

Industry figures have told the Guardian that they urgently need to see a reduction in energy prices and action to bring about higher tariffs on Chinese steel dumping.

It comes after Gupta warned that he was not “married” to the plan of purchasing Tata’s British assets and could still walk away.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the steel magnate said Liberty House would not take on any plants if doing so meant that the company would sustain losses, as this was “not our business model”.

Gupta said changes including switching from blast furnaces to electrically powered furnaces that melt scrap steel in Port Talbot could produce “a very clear opportunity to turn things around, make money and create a sustainable business”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Anushka Asthana, for The Guardian on Sunday 10th April 2016 20.25 Europe/London

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