Wales politics

Jeremy Corbyn says Port Talbot steel 'not expendable'

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn visited Port Talbot on Wednesday

Jeremy Corbyn has said the Port Talbot steelworks is "not expendable" as thousands of jobs are on the line.

The Labour leader has joined growing calls for UK government intervention after Tata Steel said it wanted to sell its loss-making UK business.

Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones said a UK government take-over would "buy time" for Tata Steel plants but such a move has been played down.

The assembly will be recalled on Monday to discuss the situation.

The Indian firm said it would "explore all options", including "divestment".

Mr Corbyn is the first senior Westminster politician to visit after the announcement was made.

In a speech he pledged support for "immediate government intervention to protect our steel industry and not see it destroyed on the altar of a global corporation that decided somewhere along the line that Port Talbot is expendable".

"Sorry, it's not. We've got a different story," he added.

Mr Jones told BBC News a UK government takeover of the plants would "buy time... to find a buyer".

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Media captionThe first minister said Wales' steel plants can make money again

Asked whether the Welsh Government has powers to help, he said: "We don't have powers to nationalise, and financially, no. We don't have resources the UK government does."

He added: "What we are looking for is a way the two governments can put together a stop gap solution in order to give the industry time to restructure itself and become profitable in the future."

A Downing Street spokesman said David Cameron had spoken with Mr Jones "to discuss the urgent situation" in Port Talbot, with the afternoon call described as "constructive".

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns told BBC Wales it was a "sensitive matter", but "every option" to save the plant was being explored by the UK government.

Politicians from all parties have urged ministers to step in amid fears Tata could shut its UK plants before a buyer can be found, but Mr Javid said nationalisation was not the solution.

Bail out

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Conservative group in Cardiff Bay, called for the UK government to be prepared to take a temporary stake in the Port Talbot steelworks.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams also called for temporary renationalisation to save the Port Talbot plant.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood told BBC News: "This industry is as important to Wales, I would argue, as the banking sector is to the whole of the UK.

"If the banks could be bailed out, then the steel industry should be bailed out too."

The actor Michael Sheen, from Port Talbot, also highlighted government backing for banks.

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Writing for The Guardian, he said: "I hope that we can see as much support for the steel industry and its workers now that they face their time of greatest need."

UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill claimed "the shackles of restrictive EU regulations" prevented a "democratic UK government" from tackling the problem of high energy costs.

UK Business Minister Ms Soubry said the UK government was looking at all options to save the Port Talbot plant, including taking a stake in the business.

'Buyers there'

Business Secretary Sajid Javid is heading back from Australia to the UK because of the crisis.

He said: "There are buyers out there. It might require some kind of government support. We are more than ready to look at all ways that we can provide commercial support to really secure the long term future of steel making in Port Talbot."

Tata Steel finance director Koushik Chatterjee confirmed on Wednesday the firm had rejected a rescue plan submitted by the unions, saying: "We found that risks to the plan are very significant."

An evidence gathering meeting of the business and enterprise committee on the steel industry is to be held on Monday.

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

The key question is whether the Welsh Government can do something other than providing the usual level of support for regeneration and training for workers who have lost their jobs.

The Scottish Government recently bought two mothballed steel plants in Lanarkshire from Tata before selling them to a private company on the same day.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he'd consider something like that but admits there are major differences in the scale.

The buy-out in Scotland will secure about 200 jobs. We are now talking about thousands, and the future of the biggest steel plant in Britain.

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