Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'It Is a Very Worrying Time for Many Workers and Their Families. but I Believe Teesside Still Has a Bright Future' Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton Has Written This Comment Piece for the Gazette as the SSI Mothballing Crisis Continues. the Stockton South Conservative MP's Views Come after the Gazette Published Opinion from the Likes of Redcar Labour MP Anna Turley and SSI Worker Brian Dennis

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'It Is a Very Worrying Time for Many Workers and Their Families. but I Believe Teesside Still Has a Bright Future' Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton Has Written This Comment Piece for the Gazette as the SSI Mothballing Crisis Continues. the Stockton South Conservative MP's Views Come after the Gazette Published Opinion from the Likes of Redcar Labour MP Anna Turley and SSI Worker Brian Dennis

Article excerpt

* WHEN the Gazette asked if I would like to write a comment piece on the terrible news from SSI I do not mind admitting that I briefly hesitated.

There is a huge amount of understandable emotion and concern at this difficult time and I do not want to make things more difficult for so many worried workers and their families.

After much thought, though, I felt that it is right to offer a frank and realistic assessment of where we stand today and I am grateful to our local newspaper for giving me the opportunity to do so.

That SSI is to mothball its Redcar plant was the news many on Teesside dreaded.

It will have a terrible impact on those facing redundancy, as well as the supply chain, and a knock-on effect on our local economy.

World steel prices are barely more than half what they were and this has made it hard for many producers to compete.

The recent troubles at SSI, caused in part because of this price slump, first became known some time before the media debate and campaigns that now cover the news.

Government departments have been working with them over the summer, trying to find ways to help and to avoid what has now come to pass.

If we had not, then this would quite possibly have happened far earlier.

We worked hard to find ways to offer support, and we were able to help to avert earlier potential disasters.

At the same time we could not speak publicly about what was happening.

Much of what has been done was, and still is, confidential because of its commercially sensitive nature.

The most recent help from government focused on ensuring that wages were paid last Friday.

This was hard to do, but in the end SSI workers were paid what they were owed.

Now people understandably call for more to be done. Sadly the options are limited.

A loan or grant would be illegal under EU state aid rules. People sometimes point to the banking bailouts of the past and ask, if this is true, how did they receive help? At that time a special exemption was made by the EU Commission because of the unique role banks have in the economy.

Whatever the rights or wrongs it was not against the law. …

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