Prime Minister David Cameron today claimed the Government is doing “what we can” to help the steel industry amid the crisis surrounding troubled Teesside plant SSI.
It was reported this week that the Redcar-based steelmaker was in loan rescheduling talks with eight banks as bosses continue to battle against falling steel prices.
The Thai firm has even considered the option of selling its Redcar plant, according to other reports.
SSI employs around 2,000 on Teesside and thousands more in the supply chain.
Mr Cameron and the Chancellor George Osborne were both in the North East today (Thursday) when they welcomed train manufacturing back to the North East at the opening of Hitachi Rail’s new factory in Newton Aycliffe, which was attended by hundreds of customers, employees and the world’s media.
Asked about the steel crisis, Mr Cameron said: “We’re doing what we can. We’re investing £35m in helping high energy users, which is helping the steel industry.
“Because we have the national infrastructure plan, you can see the steel needs in terms of infrastructure for many years to come, which is helpful.
“There has been a big reduction in international steel prices, which is having an effect.
“The most recent thing we’ve done is to vote in favour of the anti-dumping moves in Europe, against the dumping of Chinese steel at low prices, so we’re doing what we can but it is a difficult situation.”
Mr Cameron had earlier said he hopes Hitachi’s new factory in Aycliffe will mark the start of a revival in the region.
“This is a really big moment for the region,” he told guests.
“Train manufacturing has come back to the North East. It is great to be adding to the history of railways in the North East which extends back to George Stephenson – the father of railways.
“It’s great in terms of jobs for local people and it’s great for skills – the sort of highly skilled manufacturing work that our country needs as we rebuild our manufacturing base.
“It also means the potential for thousands of jobs in the supply chain. We want this to be the start of a great revival in terms of manufacturing in the North East.”
Hitachi’s huge factory, sitting within a 31.5-acre site on Aycliffe Business Park, will eventually employ 730 people this time next year and will include an R&D facility.
It will help to build the new InterCity Express (IEP) trains for the East Coast Mainline and Great Western Mainline, as well as AT200 commuter trains for Scotland.
More than 500 guests at the ceremony were shown the first fully fitted out IEP train, which was shipped from Japan for the event.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, Rail Minister Claire Perry, Japanese Ambassador to the UK Keiichi Hayashi and Hitachi Ltd chairman and chief executive officer Hiroaki Nakanishi were also in attendance.
Mr Osborne said: “What a great moment, not just for this company, but for the North East of England.
“We’ve talked a lot in this Government about rebalancing the economy and trying to create a Northern Powerhouse.
“I can tell you that jobs are being created faster in the North East than any other part of the country and wages are rising are also going up four times as fast as the UK average. The North East is a real manufacturing success story now.”