Wales Election 2016

Tata Steel crisis focus of Welsh election debate

Brian Meechan, Edwina Hart and Andrew RT Davies
Image caption Brian Meechan (left) chaired the debate which included Edwina Hart and Andrew RT Davies

The steel crisis was top of the agenda as leading politicians set out their plans for the next assembly in front of business people in Wrexham.

An election debate staged by the Federation of Small Businesses on Wednesday also covered the issue of support for homegrown firms and whether investment was too focused on the M4 corridor and Deeside.

Labour's Economy Minister Edwina Hart said it was time for all parties to work together to save the steel industry after Tata announced it wanted to sell its UK plants.

She warned that cutting business rates at the Port Talbot plant was not the answer.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies backed the building of an M4 relief road and reform of business rates.

For Plaid Cymru, party leader Leanne Wood raised concerns about striking the right balance between supporting small Welsh companies and attracting large firms to Wales.

Image caption Mark Reckless and Kirsty Williams listen as Leanne Wood makes a point

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams argued that money should be spent more evenly across Wales, and warned against following the new English model of devolving control of business rates to local councils.

UKIP spokesman Mark Reckless said he wanted to support the steel industry, but claimed the European Union was preventing British politicians from doing so.

In response, Ms Williams said the EU had already brought in anti-dumping measures, many of which applied to Chinese steel.

She said more could be done in that regard and that the UK government needed to "take their foot off the brake" regarding measures to combat cheap steel imports.

Hear highlights of the debate on Wales at Work on BBC Radio Wales at 18:30 BST on Thursday 31 March and on the BBC iPlayer.

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