Keir Starmer: Tata Steel jobs talks for first Wales visit as PM


By Mark PalmerBBC News

PA Media Sir Keir Starmer and Welsh First Minister Vaughan GethingPA Media

Sir Keir Starmer is due to meet Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething

Sir Keir Starmer will visit Wales on Monday for the first time since becoming prime minister, with talks focusing on steel job cuts.

He will meet First Minister Vaughan Gething at the Senedd amid concern for employees at the giant Tata steelworks in Port Talbot, where thousands of people are facing redundancy.

Sir Keir’s new Labour government has said there is “a better deal available” with Tata but warned newer technologies would employ fewer people.

However, one union boss has said the UK government is “right up against it” if it wants to delay the closure of Port Talbot’s blast furnace and save jobs.

Roy Rickhuss, the general secretary of union Community, said there was a “real opportunity” to persuade Tata to keep blast furnace 4 operating beyond September.

Mr Rickhuss, whose union is the largest representing steelworkers in Port Talbot, said there were four to six weeks of negotiations to try and change direction but that “we are up against it, time-wise”.

“We’re living in with this fear and uncertainty, it’s not in their interest to prolong the debate. We need to have these discussions quick,” he said.

‘We want a better deal than the Tories’

Ahead of the visit, Mr Gething told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast that the previous Tory government was an “aggressive competitor”, not a partner.

“The fact that there’ll be an entirely new relationship will be a real benefit,” he said.

On Tata, Mr Gething would not be drawn on how many jobs he expects to be saved by negotiations with the new government, but said he did not want to see any compulsory redundancies.

“Tata have gone ahead with lots of their plans and I think we can be confident that Tata wanted to finalise their plans with the former UK government still in office,” said Mr Gething.

“Now there’s a different government with a different mandate with more [money] available to co-invest with the company.

“However, that does mean we want a better deal than the one they had with the Tories.”

Port Talbot’s Tata steel plant future a ‘major priority’ – Reynolds

On funding for HS2, the first minister said designating projects that only benefit England as England and Wales projects is “obviously a problem”.

However, when asked about the UK Labour government giving no guarantees that Wales would receive any additional HS2 funding, Mr Gething said he wants to see fairness in the system “moving forward”.

In a statement ahead of the visit, Sir Keir said: “Wales has enormous untapped potential ready to be unleashed.

“Working in lockstep with the Welsh government and Vaughan [Gething], my government will place the people and communities of Wales front and centre as we move towards a decade of national renewal.

“That means turning the page on years of economic hardship, towards genuine shared prosperity for working people, so they see and feel real tangible change in their lives.”

Reuters Jo StevensReuters

In a statement, Tata Steel’s UK chief executive Rajesh Nair has congratulated Sir Keir on his victory and said he looked forward “to working with the new government on our shared goals of growing the production of green steel in the UK, and building a positive operating environment for this critical industry”.

Mr Nair added: “In the coming days and weeks we will be engaging with new ministers over our ambitious plans to invest in and transform Port Talbot with electric arc furnace steelmaking, and to supporting our workers through this necessary but difficult transition.”

Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens said Labour wanted more steel made in Wales and the UK.

“There is certainly a role for Tata to play in that and I want Welsh steel workers to be right at the front of that,” she told BBC Wales.

“There may well be some people who may want to take voluntary redundancy, but we don’t want to see any compulsory redundancies.”

Referring to Sir Keir’s visit to Wales, she said Labour’s landslide in the general election had created a “real mandate here for what we want to see, which is a cohesive United Kingdom with respectful, close working relationships between the first ministers, the deputy first ministers, ministers in Northern Ireland, and the prime minister”.

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