The Assembly may have been dissolved this week, ahead of our elections on May 5th, but there will be no let-up in our efforts to secure a future for steel-making in Wales.
In an article published in The Sunday Times today, Carwyn Jones writes:
On Tuesday I met the Prime Minister in Downing Street to press the case that if necessary, the UK government should consider taking over Tata's assets in the short term to enable a sale process to take place. I also made the point that the UK Government had to take immediate steps to look at the pensions liabilities – this cannot become the stumbling block on which this industry flounders.
Steel is a strategic industry for the UK. I can't imagine or accept the idea of being a major industrial economy if we don't make our own steel. Tata’s plants in Wales – at Port Talbot, Llanwern, Shotton and Trostre - have been producing high quality steel for years. These plants are vital to the future of the United Kingdom’s interests.
We will continue to work with the UK Government to secure a buyer, to save jobs in these communities and to ensure the future of steelmaking in Wales. I welcome the fact that in a meeting with the Business Secretary, Tata Steel have echoed the reassurances they gave to me about their responsibilities as a seller. The company has said it is committed to providing sufficient time for the sale process to be completed, and that the formal sales process will begin by tomorrow.
We know there are potential buyers out there, and I have met with Sanjeev Gupta of Liberty House Group to talk about his developing proposals – but there is more work for us to do.
I have already made clear that we are prepared to contribute from Welsh Government resources to help secure a long-term solution, and to do all we can to assist prospective buyers. The amount of support we could offer specifically through business rate relief would be very limited and complex – and so we developed an alternative package of support totalling around £60million that far outstrips anything that could be achieved through rate relief schemes. What we can do, to the limits of our abilities as a devolved administration, we will do.
On Wednesday I met with staff, management and trade union representatives at Tata’s Shotton plant in North Wales and I will be visiting other sites in the coming days.
My message to the steelworkers and their families, and to the communities that have grown up around these sites, is one which was shared across the Chamber when the Assembly met for its final session this week.
We stand beside you shoulder to shoulder. Welsh steel – British steel – cannot be allowed to die.