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BBC Wales's David Cornock
"Six thousand people depend on Llanwern for their livelihood"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 20:13 GMT
MP attacks steel plant 'fat cats'

The government has told MPs it is taking action to tackle the problems facing the steel industry.

In a special debate, UK Industry Minister Alan Johnson urged Corus, formerly British Steel, to "think long and hard before closing any plants like Llanwern" outside Newport in south Wales.

Among problems currently facing Corus is the weakness of the Euro, which makes its exports more expensive.

The government has ruled out intervening to reduce the level of the pound but has appealed to the company not to act in haste.

Industry Minister Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson: Corus mustthink 'long and hard'
During the debate Welsh MPs criticised Corus whose restructuring programme is threatening 3,000 south Wales jobs as the spectre of closure hangs over Llanwern.

MP for Blaenau Gwent Llew Smith claimed that when Corus was first formed, its first act was to transfer almost 700m to shareholders.

He believed this was nothing to do with any contribution the shareholders had made to the industry's success.

"It's just an example of the corporate greed, of lining the pockets of the fat cats of industry, which has done so much to damage British industry over the years," he said.

There might well be permanent damage done to these families, to Wales, to Newport and the Welsh steel industry and British steel itself

Paul Flynn

Newport West MP Paul Flynn accused Corus of being "very secretive" and failing to open its books in time of crisis so that others could help save the industry.

He said steel contributed six per cent to Wales's gross domestic product (GDP) and warned that thousands of families now faced uncertainty.

"There might well be permanent damage done to these families, to Wales, to Newport and the Welsh steel industry and British steel itself for reasons that are temporary, problems that are temporary, difficulties that are temporary, problems which are already being solved, and disappearing.

Llew Smith, Blaenau Gwent MP
Llew Smith: Criticised industry 'fat cats'
"That would be a terrible crime."

Plaid Cymru MP for Caernarfon Dafydd Wigley warned that problems caused by the strong pound, and urged the Treasury to change its strategy so that employment was taken more fully into account in determining policy.

But Mr Johnson assured MPs that the government was taking action but he said there were no simple solutions to the issue

Earlier this week, Corus management said no final decisions have been taken about plant closures in the UK.

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See also:

07 Jan 01 | Business
Llanwern steelworks 'set to close'
06 Dec 00 | Wales
Steel industry job fears
21 Jul 00 | Wales
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Corus axes steel jobs
16 Jun 00 | Wales
Steel jobs go at Port Talbot
30 Aug 00 | Wales
Steel giant saves Welsh plant
08 Jan 01 | Wales
'No decision' over steel jobs
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