More reports on: Steel

British manufacturing on brink, warns Tata Steel boss

29 April 2016

The steel crisis could ''shut the doors'' on Britain's manufacturing industry, a top Tata boss warned on Thursday.

Director Bimlendra Jha rang alarm bells for the UK, which was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution as he gave a gloomy assessment of the sector's future.

And he insisted India-based Tata ''cannot continue to bleed'' cash at Port Talbot, as he pressed the need for a quick sale.

Jha insisted no deadline had been fixed for a pull out of its UK businesses. But he underlined the company will not allow the South Wales site to survive indefinitely.

 ''There is no dead drop time that has been given, though you will appreciate with the kind of losses that there are, urgency is important,'' he told MPs.

''What if no buyer emerges? We cannot continue to bleed.''

Blaming the UK's ''structural weaknesses'' for the decision to sell, Jha told the Commons Business select committee, ''We have seen over a period of time that manufacturing in Britain has been on a decline.

''It cannot be only steel, it is the entire supply chain. Steel is a foundation industry that feeds into that supply chain.''

He feared steel's decline sector could ''shut the doors on the Industrial Revolution that began here in Britain''.

Tata's shock decision to abandon its British plants plunged 15,000 direct jobs into jeopardy, with another 25,000 at risk in the supply chain.

Ministers last week signalled they are ready to buy 25 per cent of the Port Talbot plant if a ''credible buyer'' can be found  But David Cameron warned the rescue bid could fail if no firm puts forward a viable plan.

Labour MP and committee chairman Ian Wright asked Jha, ''Can you pledge that Tata would be committed to keeping all of your steel facilities in the UK open, all jobs safeguarded within those facilities until such time as a buyer is found a deal formally done?''

Jha admitted, ''We cannot give any such commitment.''

Defending the timescale, he added, ''We have to remove uncertainty for our customers, for our employees, for our suppliers, for our shareholders ... by doing it in a very, very short time.''

UK Steel director Gareth Stace said the industry was ''in intensive care'', adding, ''This isn't just about Port Talbot, this isn't just about Tata this is a sector crisis that we are in.''

He called on the government to do more to improve competitiveness for the beleaguered industry.

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