The Senedd held an urgent debate yesterday proposed by Plaid Economy Spokesperson Luke Fletcher MS, following Tata Steel’s plans to close blast furnaces at its Port Talbot plant, affecting over 3,000 jobs.
The call came on Tuesday (January 23rd) from Plaid Cymru’s Economy Spokesperson, Luke Fletcher MS, who is also a Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, which covers Port Talbot.
It followed a statement from the Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething MS, in which he reaffirmed the Welsh Government’s commitments to working with Tata Steel, trade unions and the UK Government.
Tata is pledging a £130 million support package to help workers retrain or find new jobs but unions have warned the decision will be devastating for the south Wales economy as well as the steel industry.
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford said he approached Rishi Sunak last week to discuss Tata job losses but the Prime Minister couldn’t find the time to fit it in a phone call.
Mr Fletcher said: “It was shocking but not surprising to learn over the weekend that UK Government, through the Prime Minister, once again has refused to engage constructively with the Welsh Government to protect jobs at Tata.”
The Plaid Cymru MS criticised the UK Government’s lack of willingness to engage with the Welsh Government, stating in the chamber that it was another indication that no UK Government can ultimately be trusted to “stand up for Wales”.
He said: “Nationalisation is needed as a bridge to securing the long-term viability and diversity of domestic steel production in Wales. Investment is needed in the billions, like we’ve seen in Germany, like we’ve seen in France and Spain. The UK Government’s five- hundred million doesn’t even touch the sides.”
In response, Mr Gething called nationalisation a “red herring”. He said: “The future and the challenges that our workers face today in the steel industry are not going to be solved by us running a campaign on nationalisation.”
Following the economy minister’s statement, in accordance with Senedd standing orders Luke Fletcher proposed an urgent debate on the future of the Welsh steel industry.
In the proposal, delivered on the floor of the Senedd, Mr Fletcher said: “Whilst we’ve had time for the Government to answer questions and be scrutinised on their own actions, given the gravity of the situation more time must be allocated in a more appropriate format so that the Senedd as a whole can be afforded the opportunity to discuss ideas and directions for the future of the steel industry.
“This is an issue of national consequence, impacting related industries in Wales as well as our climate and infrastructure sectors.
“MPs in Westminster will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a debate in the commons – I believe MSs here in Wales need to be afforded the same opportunity.”
The proposal was agreed without objection and was debated in the Senedd on Wednesday (January 24th) afternoon.
During the debate, Luke Fletcher MS said: "For those of us in postindustrial communities, renationalisation is not a foreign concept.
"Look at Tower Colliery in the 50s, which subsequently in 1994 was bought out by the workers - the only deep mine to survive the wave of closures.
"If you want a steel-specific example, look at the Basque Country where cooperative steel thrives and underpins a successful industry."
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