Tata Steel: Plaid Cymru call for Port Talbot steelworks to be renationalised

The Welsh government argued that one of the plant's blast furnaces should remain open during the transition to an electric arc furnace in the town. Credit: Tata Steel/Senedd TV

Port Talbot's steelworks should be taken back into public ownership in order to save thousands of jobs, according to Plaid Cymru.

An urgent debate was tabled in the Senedd on Wednesday 24 January, by the party's Luke Fletcher, to address Tata Steel's announcement last week.

The Welsh government argued one of the plant's blast furnaces should remain open during the transition to an electric arc furnace in the town.

Welsh Conservative Tom Giffard said he was "optimistic about the town and what its future could look like", thanks to UK government investment.

Tata Steel announced on 19 January it would close Port Talbot's two blast furnaces.

Since then a storm has erupted, testing devolution and political relationships in Cardiff and Westminster.

Luke Fletcher 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."

On Tuesday 23 January, the Welsh Conservative leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies diverged from his party’s official line that there is no alternative to the current plan.

“I disagree with that proposal," he said.

"From the conversations I've had with Tata. I was always under the impression that at least one of those blast furnaces would continue in operation. 

“And I still maintain that that is a feasible objective for the transition to arc furnaces."

This has led to private anger from Conservatives in the UK government for opening up an unnecessary dividing line.

However, in the Siambr on Wednesday, there was more unity among Welsh and UK Conservatives.

Tom Giffard praised the UK government for their investment, saying "not one single penny has been put in by the Welsh government—not one penny."

Adding: "Where has the government been?"

2,500 jobs in Port Talbot are set to be axed in the next 18 months, with a further 300 under threat in the next three years. Credit: PA Images

The Welsh government said it wants to see one of the blast furnaces remain open while the electric arc furnace is installed.

Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said "there is an alternative that I'll go on to describe and discuss again".

Taking a swipe at Rishi Sunak, he added, "the prime minister not only would not take a call from the first minister, but went out of his way from a seat in the stands at Southampton football club to attack the Welsh government."

The UK government takes a different view altogether.

It says its current investment in electric arc technology is the only way to keep Tata in Port Talbot.

David TC Davies told ITV Wales "there is no plan C", but it appears the consensus in the Senedd is there is.

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