Rattled by Indian giant Tata Steel’s move to sell its loss-making business in the UK, the British government today said it was looking at “all options” including taking a temporary stake in the country’s biggest steelworks at Port Talbot to save thousands of jobs.
Business Minister Anna Soubry said the government was prepared to look at all the options to allow time for a buyer to be found to save thousands of jobs.
Tata’s British business employs about 15,000 workers, including 4,000 at Port Talbot, the country’s biggest steelworks.
Tata’s Port Talbot site alone, which employs 5,500 people, is estimated to be losing 1 million pounds a day.
When asked on the BBC’s Today programme whether the government would be prepared to nationalise Tata’s remaining steel plants, she said: “We are, and have, and continue to look at, all options and I do mean all options.
“But what we first want to achieve is from Tata is this period of time to allow a proper sale process.”
However, when pressed, she said there was a limit to what the government could do: “We have to be very careful because we have these state aid rules, which have been established for well over 50 years.”
She said there was sympathy for Tata which had invested an “extraordinary” amount in its UK steel operations.
Nine years after acquiring Corus to become Europe’s second largest steel maker, Tata Steel has decided to sell its UK business as the company battles to control its “deteriorating financial performance”.
The Board of one of the world’s largest steelmakers met yesterday to decide on the future course of action in a bid to steer its embattled operations in Europe out of the rut, which face supply glut, increase in cheap imports from China amidst a continued weakness in demand in the European markets.
The UK and Welsh governments earlier issued a joint statement saying they were “committed to working with Tata and the unions on a long-term sustainable future for British steel-making.
“Both the UK and Welsh governments are working tirelessly to look at all viable options to keep a strong British steel industry at the heart of our manufacturing base.”
Meanwhile, the general secretary of the trade union Community, Roy Rickhuss, who met representatives from Tata in Mumbai yesterday to plead the case for the UK business, said he would fight hard.
“We will not let the steel industry in the UK die. We are not going silently into the night. We will make sure we do everything we can to create a sustainable industry in the UK.”
Steel making was once a major UK industry, employing 250,000 at its peak.