Statement from Tom Blenkinsop MP regarding SSI announcements

Friday 2nd October 2015

“Today is one of the darkest faced by the Teesside community. Steelmaking, for so long, has been the foundation for how our area has evolved. It has provided livelihoods for thousands of families over many generations and that remained the case even this morning.

“I know these words will be of little consolation to all those workers affected by the announcement today but my heart goes out to them and their families. It is absolutely devastating and I just wish that I was able to do more for them.

“The manner in which SSI have handled this crisis is shameful. On their website they have a list of their values as, amongst others: “honesty, respect, professionalism and transparency” – in the past few weeks all of those have been missing and the workforce have been completely failed.

“The £80m support package for those who have lost their jobs is welcome but requires some clarification. In particular, is the money above and beyond statutory redundancy that the Government is liable for following the company going into liquidation?

“I, along with my colleagues and Community Trade Union, continue to urge the Government to ensure intervene in terms of ensuring the site is mothballed in a safe and secure way otherwise there will be no chance for steelmaking to come back in the future.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP calls for SSI UK to ‘get out of the way’ in the fight to save steelmaking on Teesside

Commenting on after a meeting of the Steel Action Group Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, has called on SSI UK to step aside to hasten the efforts to protect the Redcar blast furnace.

 Tom Said: “I doubt that SSI UK will exist by the end of the week, they have massive debts and are unable to pay energy and resource suppliers.

 “I’m calling on SSI UK, and their banking creditors, to get out of the way and allow the transfer of all the on-site assets, including the blast furnace and coke ovens, so they can be successfully mothballed and allow the site to be secured so that we have a fighting chance for steelmaking to return to Redcar in the future.

 “I am hopeful that Anna Soubry, the Steel Minister, can persuade the government to fast track the administration of SSI UK and work with the local workforce, trade unions and businesses to ensure that we have the capability to restart steelmaking in Redcar if an appropriate buyer is found.

 “The government must also act quickly to make sure there is a much needed retention package for the area to allow the workforce, and subcontractors, to receive the money they are owed and minimise the damaging economic impact which will affect the area.

 “This plan may still not work-and we have to be honest that time and SSI’s deliberate silence has not helped at all. But even so this is our best chance to retain our Teesside steel making assets.”

‘Teesside AGAIN missing from Tory railway map’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (September 30th 2015) blasted transport ministers for “again ignoring Teesside on the transport map.”

Tom said:
“Looking through the document one thing stands out: there is absolutely no mention of any electrification of the short piece of line from Northallterton to Middlesbrough and Teesport. This is the key piece of work needed to connect Teesside to high speed rail.

“At a time when we need to be throwing everything we can at infrastructure renewal for this area following the SSI body blow, this is negligence of the highest order.

“A second issue which runs through the document is that all the other promised improvements are prefaced by the weasel words on the main announcement – and I  quote – are seen “as work to develop new plans” for TransPennine rail.  I would query whether this means that they are going back to the drawing board altogether and junking past work, which if they are doing, would put a substantial delay on this and I couldn’t see a firm date for the work.

“In terms of road improvements again, there is no specific mention of the needs of Teesside. There is talk of rebranding the A19 as an “expressway”, which, when you look at the small print seems mainly to give the road a logo to indicate that it is a through dual carriageway. The needs, for example, for a new Tees crossing is simply absent.

“It seems that yet again the switches in the Northern Powerhouise have been pulled off by this government.”

‘Teesside steelworkers will be furious that taxpayers money will be funding Canadian steel mill’

Responding to reports that Evraz, the steel and mining giant, is due to receive a £45m loan from Britain’s export credit agency, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Whilst it is good that workers in Sheffield might benefit from this loan, I fail to see why the Government seems impotent when it comes to providing financial support for steelworkers directly here in the UK, and in particular those 1700 steel workers across Teesside who are losing their jobs

“Steelworkers on Teesside will be furious that taxpayers’ money is being used in this way. David Cameron and his Government have been silent on the crisis at Redcar and this is just another kick in the teeth.

“As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Steel, I have written to the Prime Minister to raise my concerns over how this money is being used, particularly in light of what is happening on Teesside and whilst the UK steel industry is essentially on its knees.”

Teesside MPs to put steel plan to Minister on visit to Redcar

Teesside Labour MPs Anna Turley and Tom Blenkinsop have secured a visit to Teesside from industry minister Anna Soubry and will be presenting a rescue plan for the steelworks to her.

Ms Soubry, the Minister of State for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, will be meeting Anna and Tom in Redcar tomorrow.

Anna said:
“I am really pleased we have been able to secure this visit so that the minister can see first-hand how much the steelworks means to Teesside and why urgent action is needed to secure it.

“Tom and I will be putting a rescue plan for the SSI site to her which will involve working with a number of partners including the unions, local British businesses and organisations in the region.

“The plan will propose a way in which the site can be properly secured, keeping the blast furnace lit so that one day when the market turns Teesside will be able to produce steel again.

“But the plan will only work if all partners, including the government, sit down and work together on the details. We hope the minister will commit to doing this tomorrow.”

Tom said:
“We have a plan to rescue this asset. The government doesn’t. The plan might not work. But it definitely won’t if we don’t try. It’s now up to them to work with us here in the region to save steelmaking on Teesside.”

Response to SSI UK announcement

In response to the announcement by SSI UK that over 1,700 jobs are to be lost at their Redcar site. Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, said:

“My first thoughts are with the 1,700 workers, and their families, who have lost their jobs today.

“The steel industry on Teesside has proved it’s resilience in the past, but the Government must now step in to ensure that any mothball process is done properly to safeguard against any shortfalls which SSI may have and to ensure the site is in a suitable condition to be used again.

“As the Prime Minister said, in a response to my question, the Government must “do everything [it] can to keep steelmaking in Redcar” now is the time to prove that those words were more than an empty promise.

“I fear that local management have had their hands tied by the executive of SSI in Thailand, and the UK government must ensure that this is not the case.

“These redundancies are a huge blow but we’ve fought back from this position before. It is clear from all of the support over the last week: the vigil, the huge banner at the Boro match, local business putting up the ‘Save Our Steel’ posters; that the area will fight back to ensure steelmaking has a future on Teesside.”

‘Ball remains in play’ for steelworks

Commenting on reports today (18th September 2015) that SSI UK have paused production at the Teesside plant, Tom Blenkinsop said:
“My immediate thoughts are with those workers at South Bank Coke Ovens which has been mothballed with immediate effect. This was initially in the pipeline for March 2016. I know unions will be working closely with those workers to offer all the support they can but my heart goes out to those workers and their families.

“As far as I am concerned the ball remains in play to secure a viable future for steel production in Redcar and Teesside.

“Undeniably, the situation at the steelworks remains critical and obviously there are many questions that need to be answered by SSI following their announcement – particularly in terms of duration for this course of action.

“In the meantime, I can only echo my calls yesterday for Government intervention into this crisis.”

Tom calls on the Government to have the ‘political will’ to save Teesside’s steel industry

Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Steel Tom Blenkinsop today (17th September 2015) urged the Government to join the fight to save the steelworks in Redcar.

Following on from reports earlier in the week that suggested the site and 2,000 jobs in Redcar were at risk after the owners SSI failed to pay back several loans amounting to £80m in June, a debate on the UK steel industry was secured by Anna Turley, MP for Redcar.

During the debate, Tom said:
“In 2012 steel making, against all the odds, had returned to Teesside; people’s livelihoods had been restored; and an opportunity to carry on the tradition of steel making had been created for future generations.

“Since SSI bought the site and relit the furnace in 2012 I think it is fair to say that the journey to where we are now has been a bumpy one. Indeed we find ourselves almost on a cliff edge as to whether the company can continue to operate at all.

“[Over the next few weeks SSI] must realise that the workers at the site are not so naïve that they don’t understand the difficulty the company finds itself in, so it is essential that SSI respects this and maintains a clear and honest dialogue with the workers and trade unions at the site. I do believe there is role for the Government to play in in ensuring talks firstly take place and then continue.

“If the prospect of 2,000 hardworking people losing their livelihoods doesn’t spurn the Government into action immediately then I despair.

“The fight for the steelworks at Redcar is one we are ready to have and the government needs to find the political will to act.”

“Government must fight tooth and nail to ensure Redcar steelworks survival”

Commenting on reports that SSI, the owners of the Redcar steel plant, failed to pay back several loans totalling around £80m to lenders in June, local Labour MP & Chair of the All Parliamentary Party Group for Steel, Tom Blenkinsop said:

“The onus now is very much on the Government to act. The Banks have set a deadline for the end of September so urgency is paramount.

“I welcome the news that my Labour colleague in Redcar, Anna Turley, has secured a debate in Parliament this Thursday to discuss this vital issue. I will also be using the Prime Minister’s Question that I have secured to raise the topic and I have already arranged to meet with Anna Soubry, the Government Minister whose portfolio includes the steel industry.

“The livelihoods of over 2,000 workers are on the line and I, along with my Labour colleagues and Community Trade Union have been pressing the Government for a number of years now on how it can act to help ease the pressures faced by, not only the steelworks in Redcar, but across the UK. Now is the time for the Government to stand up and meet that challenge.”

Guisborough Town Hall purchase is a boost for the town and local people

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland today (15th September 2015) welcomed the news that Labour-led Redcar and Cleveland Council had completed the purchase of Guisborough Town Hall and will now be looking to bring the site back as the showpiece of the town.

Tom said:
“For a number of years Guisborough Town Hall has been neglected. A once grand building has become a bit of an eye sore and the source of numerous complaints. Its location, right in the centre of the town, only served to highlight its sorry state – and I received many complaints along these lines.

“So it is fantastic news the new Labour-led council have purchased the building and will soon begin a consultation with local people on the new purpose for the building and how to make it integral to Guisborough High Street once again.

“I look forward to seeing how the project develops but in the meantime I welcome the news that the future of Guisborough Town Hall has been secured.”