Dame Nia Griffith MP calls for clarity in long-term future of Tata Steel plant in Trostre

LLANELLI Labour MP, Nia Griffith, has issued a call on Conservative UK Government Ministers to be up front about the long-term future of the Tata Steel packaging plant in Trostre following the recent announcement of the proposed closure of the company’s blast furnaces in Port Talbot.

In a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament that the MP had secured on the future of the Welsh Steel industry, she urged the Prime Minister and his government to urgently look again at the terms of the planned deal and reassure workers at the Trostre plant in her Llanelli constituency that they had been properly considered during negotiations.

Speaking during the debate, she said:

“The news that we have had over the past few months has been devastating. We stand today at a real crossroads for the steel industry in Wales and the UK. We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the new green industrial revolution, or to allow ourselves to slide into a second-rate position to be left behind as the only country in the G20 that does not have primary steelmaking facilities.”

Focussing in on jobs in her own constituency, the MP added:

“Trostre currently receives its steel from Port Talbot, just 20 miles down the railway track. That makes good economic and environmental sense. Tata tells us that when it closes the blast furnaces at Port Talbot in the short term before the electric arc furnace is built, it will import steel to supply the Trostre plant. That will be imported steel made in blast furnaces abroad, so there will not be any saving in carbon emissions—quite the opposite.”

“Workers at Trostre are very anxious to know that deals for supplies of quality steel have all been sorted out before anyone even thinks about switching off the blast furnace in Port Talbot. What talks has the Minister had with bosses at Tata about where they will be sourcing the imported steel for Trostre, what guarantees they can give that the quality will satisfy all the requirements at Trostre, when they expect the first shipments to arrive, and what risk assessments and contingency plans they have drawn up to cope with challenges such as price fluctuations or a tightening of the market if other countries want to prioritise their own needs?

Concluding her contribution to the discussions, Dame Nia then went on to quiz the UK Government on financial details of the agreement and how it risked making Trostre less competitive.

“The Government have promised half a billion pounds for Tata to develop an electric arc furnace. Will the Minister tell us whether there is any conditionality attached to that loan in respect of Trostre? In other words, is its availability to Tata contingent not just on building an electric arc furnace but on securing short-term supplies for Trostre—and, indeed, Shotton—and safe- guarding jobs there? If those supplies are not there, downstream businesses could go out of business, causing huge job losses.”

“It would be catastrophic for us in Llanelli to lose Trostre.”

“We can see why when steel and high-energy industries make decisions, they cannot rely on limping from package to another but need long-term security with low energy prices, We in Llanelli look across at IJmuiden in the Netherlands, where Tata has a tin plant works similar to ours. However, in close proximity to IJmuiden, Tata will keep a blast furnace open and develop a direct reduced iron facility. This is the reality we are facing: greater investment for the future going elsewhere. The UK Government need to ask themselves why.”

With the continuing lack of clarity from the UK Government on the issues she raised, Dame Nia pledged to use every opportunity to hold Ministers to account and to work with local steelworkers, trade unions, political colleagues and others to campaign for Tata Steel to reconsider their decisions and think again on future plans for steelmaking in Wales.

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