Together for Steel

Tonight at 5pm is the deadline for expressions of interest in the UK Tata Steel business, which of course includes the plants in Wales - Port Talbot, Shotton, Trostre and Llanwern.

Tonight at 5pm is the deadline for expressions of interest in the UK Tata Steel business, which of course includes the plants in Wales - Port Talbot, Shotton, Trostre and Llanwern.

It is slightly unreal moment, politically and economically, in Wales. Tens of thousands of people have already voted by post - and everyone else will be going to the polls on Thursday. And the backdrop to it all is the future of our steel industry, hanging in the balance. Not just the steel industry, but our steel communities too.

Carwyn Jones at TATA Shotton. Photo by Natasha Hirst.

I will be in Port Talbot again later today to talk to representatives from the workforce, and to give them my assurance that, come what may on Thursday night, I won't stop fighting for their jobs.

In truth, it's a battle we've been fighting for many months and though there is much more to do, I am pleased the actions we have taken thus far have helped push us closer to a possible deal, though the experience of our Governments working together in the middle of an election has been unexpected.

Remember, that two years ago, the Tory Prime Minister was saying that our NHS was letting people down. That Offa's Dyke was "the line between life and death." Two independent studies have proved what we already knew - that this was untrue, and the OECD said categorically: "quality is at the heart of the Welsh NHS." So with that backdrop, it hasn't always been easy to move steel out of the political sphere, but we've managed it. I think it is what people expect of their Governments at times of crisis.

The £60m we have made available - at first to Tata - to support a deal has helped bring serious bring serious bidders to the table and my urging of the Prime Minister to address the pensions issue is helping deal with one of the practical barriers preventing viable purchasers come forward.

I have also pressed the Prime Minister to take seriously the prospect of a management buyout and in my discussions today with TATA Steel, I will recommit our support for a sustainable worker buy out. I can confirm that the Welsh Labour Government is giving financial support to the MBO team to help them put their bid together. This will enable them to buy specialist advice, technical support and pay the salaries of the team while the sales process progresses. We will consider supporting other bids too, should they make a case for it.

As the deadline for bids approaches, Liberty Steel have made their intentions clear and other bidders have asked to keep their bids confidential while we consider the next steps. Often strong leadership happens behind closed doors and I want to pay tribute to the unions and the communities involved for the work they have put in - this has been a team effort.

All the steelworkers have asked is that they have a fighting chance to earn a decent living. Election or not, I will continue to work 24 hours a day and leave no stone unturned to give them and their heroic communities that chance.

Anyone who looks at my priorities over the last Assembly term will see that the work we have done to make Wales a place to do business. We have staked our reputation as a smart, business friendly government ready to move quickly to bring good quality jobs to Wales.

You can see the tangible results of the decisive actions we have taken with quality Aston Martin and TVR jobs coming to Wales through support we brokered. Look at where we were in 2011, struggling out of recession and look at where we are today - record employment figures; unemployment lower than Scotland or London and the best inward investment figures in a generation.

But I can't help feeling that so much of those strong foundations will be undone if we can't save the steel industry.

Growing up in a mining constituency I saw at first hand the devastation wrought on proud communities by the end of the pits and I'll put every arm of government at the service of making sure that doesn't happen again.


What's Hot