Liberty Steel: Kwarteng defends rejecting request for £170m bailout

By Theo Leggett
Business correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightLiberty Steel

The government's decision to reject a request for £170m to support Liberty Steel has been defended by the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng.

Liberty Steel's future is in doubt after the collapse of Greensill Capital, the major financial backer of Liberty's parent company, GFG Alliance.

Mr Kwarteng said the request for funding came from GFG itself - a global business that he described as "opaque".

He added the government had to ensure any money provided stayed in the UK.

Speaking to MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) Committee, the business secretary conceded that Liberty formed an important part of the supply chain, but insisted it would be "irresponsible to give money to an opaque group with assets around the world we haven't got to the bottom of".

In terms of contingency plans for keeping Liberty Steel going, Mr Kwarteng said it was necessary to work through GFG (Gupta Family Group) chairman Sanjeev Gupta's plans for refinancing his business, and examine what the local management planned to do, before considering intervention by the government.

Asked what would happen if the business were to collapse, he stressed that the government would stand behind Liberty's workers and local management, but could not give any guarantees.

Mr Kwarteng was also asked whether he had received any approaches from former prime minister David Cameron on behalf of Greensill Capital. He said he had "never received a single phone call or Whatsapp message from David Cameron", and nor had any of his officials, as far as he knew.

The business secretary also insisted there had been no pressure placed on the British Business Bank (BBB) by ministers or officials.

The BBB had approved Greensill as an accredited lender that could hand out emergency Covid loans early last year - a move that GFG benefitted from. The Beis permanent secretary, Sarah Munby, insisted the BBB had acted according to published criteria.

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