Wales Election 2016

Tata Steel crisis: Parties back buyout plan

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Media captionCarwyn Jones pledges to support any bid that would save jobs

The main political parties in Wales have voiced support for a management buyout of Tata Steel's UK plants.

The Indian firm wants to sell its loss-making UK interests and set 17:00 BST on Tuesday as a deadline for prospective bidders.

Liberty House, which runs a steelworks in Newport, has also said it would make an offer for Tata Steel's UK assets.

But the Tories said they were not favouring one bid over another at the moment.

Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones met steel workers at Tata's Port Talbot plant on Tuesday, and said he "won't stop fighting for their jobs".

"I want to pay tribute to the trades unions and the local steel communities in Port Talbot, Shotton, Llanwern and Trostre - everyone is pulling together for a successful outcome," he said afterwards.

"I have always been very clear that I feel the steel industry has a bright future in Wales."

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In an article for online newspaper the Huffington Post, he said it was a "slightly unreal moment, politically and economically" in Wales, with the future of its steel industry "hanging in the balance" as the Welsh Assembly election approached.

Mr Jones said he was giving the 4,000-strong workforce at Port Talbot "my assurance that, come what may on Thursday night, I won't stop fighting for their jobs".

"In truth, it's a battle we've been fighting for many months and though there is much more to do, I am pleased the actions we have taken thus far have helped push us closer to a possible deal, though the experience of our governments working together in the middle of an election has been unexpected," he said.

The first minister added he had "pressed the prime minister to take seriously" the prospect of a management buyout (MBO).

He confirmed the Welsh Government was giving financial support to the MBO team, but said it would consider supporting other bids if the people concerned made a case for it.

"All the steelworkers have asked is that they have a fighting chance to earn a decent living," he wrote.

"Election or not, I will continue to work 24 hours a day and leave no stone unturned to give them and their heroic communities that chance."

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price said an employee and management buyout was the "best hope to secure the steel industry's future in the long term and deliver a stable future for the Port Talbot plant".

"I hope that all political parties will get behind this bid now as we fight for the future of this crucial core industry, and fight for Welsh jobs," he said.

Also backing the management buyout plan, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "Of course we need to be ensuring that plants stays open and that jobs are saved.

"However, the best course of action would be to also keep the heavy side of production in operation," she added.

"I am worried that would might not be the case with regards to Liberty House's bid."

Conservative candidate Stefan Ryszewski said: "We're not favouring one [bid] over the other at the moment - we would just like to see the best possible option for the future of the plant and for the steel workers."

Welcoming the Liberty House bid, Ken Rees from UKIP said he hoped the firm might be able to work with the team planning a management buyout to "sustain the steel industry for Britain, which is as important as the army or the navy or the air force".

Prime Minister David Cameron visited the Port Talbot steelworks last Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

The UK government has said it would consider taking a stake in any rescue plan for Tata's UK steel plants.

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