Wales politics

Tata Steel will be a 'responsible seller', Javid tells unions

Port Talbot steelworks at night Image copyright Paul Webb/Pickled Images

Union leaders have said UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid told them at a meeting in Port Talbot that Tata Steel will be a "responsible seller".

Community Union described the discussions as "positive".

Mr Javid met Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry in Mumbai on Wednesday. The UK plants go up for sale on Monday.

Meanwhile, Sanjeev Gupta's Liberty group, seen as a front runner to buy parts of Tata's operations, met First Minister Carwyn Jones on Thursday.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said the meeting was to "discuss ways in which government could support any future purchaser of Tata's steelmaking operations in Wales".

"It was a useful meeting and the first minister reiterated his commitment to work closely with Mr Gupta and his team. They will keep in regular contact as discussions progress," the spokeswoman added.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sajid Javid travelled to India to meet Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry

Earlier, a leading business expert warned it may be better to close Tata's steel plant in Port Talbot than for it to face a "death of 1,000 cuts"

Cardiff Business School Prof Calvin Jones also said UK ministers "colluded in the demise" of steel in the EU.

He said ministers' priority was to boost consumption with cheaper goods, at the expense of heavy industry.

Prof Jones' comments came as David Cameron said he believed "we can get a resolution for Port Talbot".

Challenged over steel while speaking to students at Exeter University, the prime minister said it was "a strategic industry we should seek to support".

Prof Jones wrote a report on Tata published in 2012.

In an essay for the BBC news website, he warned politicians' "proclamations" that closure was "unthinkable" would not stop it happening without a "viable investment and financial strategy" and "so far nothing of any substance has emerged from either Cardiff Bay or Westminster".

"The UK government (and some in Europe) have, by blocking tariff increases on Chinese steel, actively colluded in the downfall of EU Steel in order to protect the affordability of the consumer durables that help prop up a fundamentally broken Western consumption model of growth," he wrote.

Prof Jones suggested Liberty head Sanjeev Gupta's was interested in buying a "very old and very complex site" in Port Talbot if he could get government help with Tata's liabilities, cleaning up the land and lower electricity costs.

"The risk here of course is that Tata could walk away from their liabilities right now, and with the UK or Welsh Government shouldering them in return for the prospect of employment being retained at Port Talbot, although who knows for how long?" he said

"It is with absolutely no pleasure that I suggest that if Port Talbot is to close - and it will - it may be better done now when we can squeeze every remedial rupee possible out of a rich corporate owner.

"The alternative will be the death of a thousand cuts for the next decade or more, with the public sector left to clean up the eventual mess, and in the meantime no one able to develop a positive, sustainable vision for Port Talbot."

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