UK government should follow Scots-style steel plants rescue

Business minister Fergus Ewing and Sanjeev Gupta of Liberty House, at Dalzell Steel Mill. Picture: John Devlin
Business minister Fergus Ewing and Sanjeev Gupta of Liberty House, at Dalzell Steel Mill. Picture: John Devlin
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The UK government should consider following the example of Scottish ministers by buying under-threat plants in Wales and England from Tata steel in order to sell them on, a think tank claimed yesterday.

The Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland group said the action taken by the Scottish Government over plants at Dalzell and Clydebridge “could be something to be considered”.

Former UK business secretary Lord Hutton also backed a bail-out, while Westminster’s work and pensions select committee chairman, Frank Field, said such a move “was worth looking at”.

Under the plan Scottish Government ministers will sell on the works and staff to Liberty House, an international steel firm, which has pledged to invest in Scotland’s industry.

Russell Gunson, director of IPPR Scotland, said: “It’s very welcome that the Scottish Government successfully brokered a deal to save much of the steel industry in Scotland.

“The steel industry in Scotland is quite different to others in the UK, but the deal brokered by the Scottish Government could be something to be considered by the governments in Wales and Westminster.”

Meanwhile, the UK government is under new pressure to intervene in the steel crisis following the disclosure that China has imposed hefty tariffs on some steel products from the European Union.

Amid growing anger among MPs, opposition parties are demanding ministers “stand up” to Beijing warning that it has the potential to “destroy” what remains of the steel industry in the UK.

The “dumping” by China of huge quantities of cheap steel on world markets is widely seen to have been a key factor behind Tata’s decision to sell off its loss-making UK assets – leaving its plants, such as Port Talbot in South Wales, facing the threat of closure with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

The announcement on Friday that Beijing is to impose anti-dumping duties on “underpriced” steel from the EU, Japan and South Korea further inflamed feelings and intensified the calls for ministers to act.