PM 'realises worries' of steel families but stops short of pledging support

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 15 May 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May stopped short of pledging support for British Steel when the issue was raised in the House of Commons today.

Instead she told how she realises the worries being felt by British Steel employees and their families following the grave concerns reported over the future of the company, underlining assistance already given.

The Scunthorpe-based steel giant admitted it was looking for Government help to continue operating in the wake of reports yesterday which suggested it could go to the wall unless it receives an emergency cash bailout.

British Steel is said to be trying to urgently borrow £75 million, and Sky News claimed ministers were actively considering the move. Brexit-based uncertainty has been blamed for orders drying up. 

The issue was discussed in Westminster during Prime Minister’s Questions, where Mrs May said she was unable to comment on the reports, but pointed out the Government had already provided support to British Steel in the form of a loan to help pay an EU carbon emissions scheme bill.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke, whose constituency is home to British Steel’s special profiles division, called on the Government to help resolve the uncertainty surrounding the company.

He said: “This is a profitable business and the jewel in the crown of UK steel making. 

“I urge my honourable friend to deliver a productive outcome to the talks that are on going as swiftly as possible.”

Mrs May said ministers were in contact with British Steel and said she understood it was a “worrying time” for employees in North Lincolnshire. 

“I can’t comment on the speculation about the future of Greybull-owned British Steel but I realise this is a worrying time for the people employed there and their families,” said the Conservative Party leader, who visited the Scunthorpe works in the run-up to the 2017 General Election she called, and subsequently lost her majority.

“The business department is in regular contact with a wide range of sectors and companies but of course last month the government entered into a commercial agreement with British Steel relating to their obligations under the EU emissions trading scheme, which has provided support to that company.”

It came as negotiations are continuing between British Steel and insurers over a blast furnace chill that brought an eye-watering £47 million bill to the company’s door.

The rare event – one of the most serious outages a works can suffer – hit Queen Victoria blast furnace in July 2017. 

It was not included in the financial reckonings published virtually a year later, as the claim was pursued. 

This week’s shock revelation triggered speculation that it had not been resolved in the works’ favour.

Ironically it equals the first full year’s earnings under the new regime. 

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