THE Welsh Secretary has set out to reassure steelworkers that Shotton remains an “important part” of Tata Steel’s process.
Alun Cairns MP was at the Deeside plant yesterday to meet with staff, management and union representatives as the formal sale process of the Indian conglomerate’s UK assets entered its second week.
Speaking to the Leader after his meeting yesterday afternoon, Mr Cairns said he and the Government wanted to ensure “longer term security” for the industry and jobs in Deeside.
He said: “I wanted to reassure local workers and the unions that Shotton is an important part of the Tata process.
“They are highly skilled jobs, the process of which adds a lot of value to the Tata product.
“A lot of attention is being paid to Port Talbot because that’s where the steel is made but here an awful lot of value is added to the product and it’s by getting a greater understanding...will give us the best chance of finding the investor in order to provide the longer term security that the industry needs.”
Mr Cairns, who has been Secretary of State for Wales a little more than a month, said Westminster recognised Shotton added “important value” to the steel industry across the UK and said he had spoken to workers about progress that the Government was making.
He said: “I advised them that the Government has been working for some time in seeking out investors, even before the Mumbai meeting some weeks ago, and it’s about rationalising their interest.
“Tata have also agreed with the UK Government to be a responsible seller. It’s about Tata now sharing that information about the operations, of which Shotton is a really important part, with a potential buyer and then the UK Government standing ready and waiting to support any potential investor.
“But we want an investor that will offer a longer term future to Tata across the whole of the UK and obviously we recognise the important value that is added here in Shotton.”
The Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP said nationalisation of Tata’s plants in the UK was not off the table yet but the Government would prefer to “co-invest” with a financial suitor to provide long term security.
“Tata has explained for some time that they want to divest their operations and of course we want to find a potential investor and the Government stands ready and waiting to support that investor,” he said.
“We will do what we can and nationalisation has not been ruled out but we don’t see that as offering a longer term future.
Mr Cairns said he welcomed that Tata advisers had reached out to 190 potential investors, saying it demonstrated interest in the steel industry in the UK.
It was “recognition of the skills and the value that steelmaking has in the UK” as well as offering “added value of the processes in Shotton”.