There have been further calls to protect the steel industry in Newport after Liberty Steel said it would sell a number of its UK sites in a bid to restructure its business.
Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith has called on the government to protect the Liberty sites in Newport and Tredegar following the announcement this week that the company plans to sell sites in the north of England, in the Midlands and Essex.
Liberty Steel currently employs 136 people at its Newport site and another 50 at its Tredegar site, but its future looks uncertain after the March news of the collapse of the company’s main lender, Greensill Capital.
Liberty Steel owner Sanjeev Gupta subsequently had a £ 170million bailout request rejected by the UK government, and the future of the UK steel industry remains unresolved.
Sites for sale include Liberty Steel’s largest UK site, its aerospace and special alloys business in Stocksbridge near Sheffield, where 762 people are employed, and downstream sites at Brinsworth and West Bromwich which together employ 268 workers. .
Speaking in questions to the Secretary of State for Affairs, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the UK parliament on Tuesday, Mr Smith said Mr Gupta “had promised that none of our steel plants would shut down his guard.
“The Liberty Steel plant in Tredegar puts food on the table and pays the mortgages of my constituents, and across the country 5,000 families rely on the company,” he said.
“We now need the government to ensure that these factories remain open and … to provide the funding needed to bridge any transition period if a new buyer or new equity purchase is required – and, of course, to work with unions to test the engagement of any new buyer. If promises are broken, will the Secretary of State step in with the funding to support our steel communities? “
In a follow-up question to Secretary of State, Newport East MP Jessica Morden added that “the government must do all it can to protect these strategic businesses that are very important to our communities.
“For this reason, and because of the global steel overcapacity, it is also essential and very urgent that ministers work with Cabinet colleagues to prevent the Trade Remedy Investigations Directorate from halving our countermeasures. saving steel, then will the government act on it? “
Ms Morden’s question on steel warranties followed a report by the Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate (TRID) of the Department of International Trade, which recommended removing nine of 19 existing trade remedies, including quotas and tariffs, on steel imports.
The community union has warned that this could lead to a “catastrophic surge in cheap foreign imports”, threatening jobs in the UK.
In response, MP Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, said the government was closely monitoring the situation at Liberty Steel and ministers aimed to “make a good decision” on steel safeguards on imports after the close. of a consultation on the matter this week.
He added that he “remains strategically engaged in the steel industry and this sector”.