EX-STEEL WORKERS in Teesside have found the Government’s response multi-national giant Tata pulling out of its UK plants ‘galling’, an MP has said.
While the Prime Minister has pledged to do everything he can to help find a buyer for the Port Talbot steelworks in Wales, SSI in Redcar closed in the Autumn without ministers intervening.
The perceived difference in approach has led Redcar’s Labour MP Anna Turley to cry foul on the Government’s ‘warm words’ to those facing potential unemployement in Wales as the Welsh and local elections arrive on May 5.
She said: “It’s galling for everyone here to see the focus on Port Talbot. I keep thinking I’ve gone through the limits of how angry I can be. I’ve had constituents say ‘they didn’t care about us’. I think was there more that we could have done? I don’t think we could have done any more.”
She said that while the Business Secretary has visited Port Talbot and the Prime Minister met with the first minister of Wales Carwyn Jones yesterday morning, she remains to be convinced that the high-profile meetings will transpire into Government action.
“I’m not massively optimistic,” she said.
“I know they are saying that they will do all they can and saying that they will help find a buyer but they are not talking about stepping in terms of Government action. I think there are trying to buy time and hoping that it will get off the agenda and the debate will move on.”
She added ‘cynically, there’s an election in Wales’ and ‘Redcar wasn’t a core area for them’.
Former steel union shop steward and now MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said he and Ms Turley MP sourced a buyer for the SSI plant in Teesside but were not helped to ensure the deal came to fruition.
He said: “You could argue SSI went into liquidation and it was too quick to intervene. My point is the red signs were popping up within the Government’s business department so they could have intervened early.”
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said every steel plant has ‘different’ circumstances and the Government looks at what it can do in each case.
Pressure is now mounting in Europe to help deal with the global steel crisis, and Yorkshire MEP Linda McAvan said she had been assured the EU was ready to take tougher action on Chinese dumping of steel if member countries, including the UK, request it.
The role of the UK and others in blocking tougher action against China in the past has come under close scrutiny in the wake of Tata’s decision to close its UK operations. EU trade ministers would be a chance for that position to be changed when they meet next month.
Ms McAvan said: “The only way this is going to move is if the UK says it clearly wants it. The French are very keen on doing something, the Italians are very keen, the Germans are apparently open to persuasion.”