David Cameron will come under pressure today to prevent further steel plant closures as MPs claim that taxpayers face clean-up costs of billions of pounds.
Insolvency experts warned last night of “significant distress” across the industry as Tata Steel confirmed that it will lay off 1,200 workers in Lincolnshire and Scotland.
Unions said that the industry was gripped by fear. Companies blame a flood of subsidised Chinese steel for worsening a crisis that coincides with the state visit of Xi Jinping, the president of China. Mr Cameron is braced for a Commons clash over the issue at prime minister’s questions today.
Sajid Javid, the business secretary, said he would not “stand by”, and suggested major steel-hungry infrastructure projects such as HS2 could help. He stressed that there were limits on what the government could do to save the industry from global forces.
Labour is likely to demand that Mr Cameron speeds up EU approval for moves to subsidise steel companies’ energy bills to stave off imminent closures. Officials admitted it could take weeks before the package passed a Brussels test on state aid.
Mr Cameron also faces questions on the cost of allowing the plants to go out of business after Anna Soubry, the small business minister, admitted that taxpayers would cover the bill to clean up the Redcar plant, which closed with the loss of 2,200 jobs.