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UK Steel Industry

Volume 613: debated on Monday 11 July 2016

Since Tata Steel announced its intention to restructure its UK operations, the Government have worked closely with Tata, potential buyers and other stakeholders including the trade unions and the Welsh Government, to ensure a sustainable future for the business. We remain committed to that objective, and to ensuring the continuation of primary steelmaking in South Wales.

Following the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, and a review of the bids received for Tata Steel UK, the board of Tata Group announced on Friday 8 July its intention additionally to explore options for retaining ownership of the business with strategic partners, including through a possible joint venture with ThyssenKrupp AG. Discussions are at a preliminary stage.

Tata has also announced its intention to sell separately its speciality steel business based in Rotherham and Stocksbridge, as well as two mills that produce steel pipes based in Hartlepool. Around 2,000 of Tata’s UK workforce are employed in the businesses that will be sold. None of the businesses that will be sold are supplied with steel from Port Talbot, and are separate business units within the group.

I met the Chairman of Tata Group in Mumbai on 8 July. During that meeting, Tata Group confirmed again their commitment to achieving an outcome for their UK operations that provides the business with the best long term prospects for a competitive and sustainable future.

The Government are committed to working with Tata to achieve that objective. We will remain in close contact with Tata during the sale process for the speciality steel and pipes business units, and as they develop their plans for the strip products business. The Government’s offer of support via an equity stake and/or loans on commercial terms to a future owner of the strip products business, which includes the operations at Port Talbot, remains.

Separately, the Government continue to work with the wider steel sector to improve the business environment in the UK, with a focus on ensuring their competitiveness in the long term. The Steel Council met for the second time on 8 June to consider the recommendations of its working groups. The vast majority of these recommendations are reflected in the UK Steel manifesto which was published last week, which I welcome.

We are already taking forward many of these recommendations and the Council has agreed to develop a common vision for the future of the sector in the UK, which will provide clarity around what Government, the companies and the workforce must do to ensure the steel industry remains competitive and more sustainable in the future. My Department will shortly commission further research to assist the sector in the development of its vision.