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Government minister accused of avoiding engagement with steelworkers

A Government minister has been accused of “avoiding” engagement with workers during recent visits to steel plants.

Industry minister Alan Mak travelled to four sites, including Port Talbot in South Wales, where jobs are set to be lost as owner Tata moves to produce steel in a more environmentally friendly way.

Mr Mak spent three hours in Port Talbot and also visited Celsa Steel in Cardiff and British Steel plants in the North East.

He said in a statement that the Government is backing the UK steel industry for the long term.

He was given a tour of the site of the proposed new electric arc furnace in Port Talbot, which will replace existing coal-powered blast furnaces.

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Alun Davies, national officer of the Community trade union, said: “We note that the latest industry minister has been sneaking around steel sites this week whilst avoiding any engagement with steelworkers. Perhaps that’s understandable, as our members would have told him what they think of his Government’s approach to steel.

“We’ve had a long succession of steel ministers under the Conservatives: we’re now on our 13th since 2010. That’s resulted in a woeful lack of leadership and direction for the industry in tumultuous times.

“Amidst the ministerial merry-go-round there’s been one constant feature – a Government which sees steel as a problem to get off its desk, rather than the base for an advanced industrial strategy for the future.

“The minister had the audacity to trumpet the Government’s deal with Tata during his whistle-stop visit to Port Talbot this week.

“This bargain-basement deal will leave the UK as an outlier in the G20 as the only country unable to make its own primary steel. It will mean exporting jobs and importing dirty steel, with a devastating impact on the local community. No wonder the minister didn’t want to stick around to hear the truth.”

UK Parliament portraits
Industry minister Alan Mak said the Government is backing the UK steel industry for the long term (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Mak said: “This Government is backing the UK steel industry for the long term, and I’m pleased my first visit as industry minister is to see the steelmaking operation up close and show our commitment to the sector is stronger than ever, building on recent wins for UK steel including the launch of our British Industry Supercharger, which will cut costs and give a huge boost to businesses.”

Tata insists its plans for Port Talbot will secure the plant’s future and avoid even heavier job losses.