London: British Prime Minister David Cameron told the management of Tata Steel on Tuesday that any sale of its remaining British assets would have to cover the whole of its business and be given sufficient time to take place.
Mr Cameron was visiting steelworks in the Welsh town of Port Talbot, the focus of his government’s efforts to make sure Tata’s sale of loss-making plants does not leave thousands unemployed just before a referendum on European Union membership.
The Tata group announced plans to quit its entire British steel operation last month, leaving the government battling to save an industry that has been hurt by cheap Chinese imports, soaring costs and weak demand.
Mr Cameron’s spokeswoman said the prime minister wanted to see for himself what the situation was at Port Talbot and toured the site to see the control room of the blast furnace and the finishing lines.
“He then… had a roundtable discussion with senior management from Tata and the (trade) unions. That was largely focused on the action the government has taken to support the steel sector,” the spokeswoman told reporters.
“The prime minister underlined our commitment to working with Tata to support the future of steel-making in Port Talbot, emphasised the need for the Tata sales process to cover the whole business, (and) for there to be sufficient time for that process to run.”
Tata said last week it was “committed to seeking all credible options in an urgent manner”.
The government has said it is willing to take a 25 per cent equity stake in any rescue of Tata Steel’s operations and that at least two potential buyers have shown interest.
The government says its efforts to save the business are not linked to the EU referendum on June 23, but those campaigning to leave the bloc have seized on the crisis.
They have accused the EU of not doing enough to stop Chinese imports and have blamed the bloc’s rules on state aid for preventing government intervention.