The vital steel industry in the UK is under threat following proposals by Tata steel, owners of several major plants here in Wales, to close plants in Port Talbot and elsewhere if a buyer cannot be found for the businesses.
Steel plants are the lifeblood of the communities where they are based, providing employment not just for steel workers but for companies in the supply chain and local area.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid has been criticised for his lack of attention to the industry’s situation despite being warned that a crisis could be looming. It took until the threat of imminent closure for him to pay any attention at all, and his response so far has been unsatisfactory.
One of the current proposals set out by the Government to support the industry is to reduce the amount of pension payable to current and former employees of Tata and British Steel (the publicly-owned predecessor company). Along with taking money from people’s pockets to fix the problems of Government, these proposals are also risky – as they may not even solve the problem – and could set a precedent that it’s ok to take money out of workers’ pensions to prop up industries left to languish by Governments and multinational owners.
The Minister confirmed that the Pensions Regulator would be consulted on any proposals, but I remain concerned about the impact on workers’ pensions.
Watch my exchange with the Minister here.
Jo Stevens MP:
“Can the Secretary of State tell the House whether he or the scheme trustees have had any preliminary discussions with the Pensions Regulator about this potentially very risky and precedent-setting proposal?”
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:
“Yes, I can tell the Honourable Lady that we have, I have, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has as well as other ministers. I think what it underlines is that if any of these proposals in this consultation went ahead it would require the full support of the Pensions Regulator.”
You can watch the exchange below