Wales politics

Tata Port Talbot: First minister raises energy price concerns

Port Talbot Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tata Steel runs the UK's largest steelworks in Port Talbot

The UK government must take responsibility and act on Tata Steel's concerns over high energy prices, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

He was responding after Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Tata Sons group which owns the steelworks in Port Talbot, said the plant needed to be "self-sustaining".

Mr Drakeford said other counties allowed firms to pay less for energy.

The UK government said it was monitoring the situation closely.

Tata Steel's pre-tax losses were £371m last year, up from £222m in 2017-18.

The company has previously said its UK energy bill was almost twice as much as its European competitors.

On Sunday, in an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Chandrasekaran said: "Everyone will tell you that the Tatas have gone way beyond to keep this going.

"Anybody else would have walked away.

"I don't want to make those tall statements [about commitment]. We are taking some hard calls. So, hopefully, we should see some results."

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Mr Drakeford said: "We will continue to have our discussions with the company about the help we can offer to support steel-making here but some of the things that Tata are talking about are things only the UK government can attend to....

"The UK government must attend to what the steel industry and other major manufacturers are saying about energy prices for large users of energy.

"The steel industry in Wales and in the United Kingdom is not on a level-playing field with steel industries in France and in Germany where their governments act to make sure large users of energy are able to secure that supply at costs that don't put their industry in peril.

"That isn't the case in this country, that is a UK government responsibility."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Port Talbot employs 4,000 workers - nearly half of Tata's UK workforce

He called on the UK government to convene a meeting of the Steel Council, adding: "It really was not good enough that the last meeting, which was the first in many months, was cancelled by the secretary of state in the run-up to the general election.

A UK government spokesman said: "We are committed to securing a prosperous and sustainable future for the UK steel industry.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and remain in regular contact with Tata Steel Europe, the unions and other partners."

In November, Tata announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs across Europe.

Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates said it "appears to be the case" that about 1,000 of those could be in Wales.

Tata has two large steelworks in Europe - Port Talbot, and one near Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, about 18 miles (30km) north-west of Amsterdam.

Just under half of Tata's 8,385-strong UK workforce are based in Port Talbot.

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