Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warns of danger Liberty Steel plants could close

Company has ‘good assets’ but government not considering stepping in with help, says minister

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Tuesday 13 April 2021 18:24

Liberty Steel could be forced to close some of its UK plants following the collapse of its main financial backer Greensill Capital, the business secretary has warned.

Kwarsi Kwarteng told MPs on the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that Liberty Steel had "good assets" that could be made to work.

However he said that the government would not consider intervening to save Liberty until its parent company, the GFG Alliance had worked through its plans to obtain further funds.

Around 5,000 jobs are under threat as GFG boss Sanjeev Gupta seeks to refinance the business - which he has said owes "many billions" - after supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital went into administration.

Greensill has been at the centre of controversy in Westminster after details emerged of David Cameron’s lobbying work for the firm.

Mr Kwarteng said that the former prime minister had never tried to contact him, saying; "I have never received a single phone call or WhatsApp from Mr Cameron."

The Business Secretary told the committee he wanted to see Liberty Steel succeed but acknowledged that some parts of the business could be lost.

"There is always that danger. It is something that I speak to government officials (about) and even the Prime Minister I have spoken to about it," he said.

"I am very keen to see that these assets, which are good assets, continue to operate and the company continues to operate but we can't strip Liberty Steel from the wider group under which it sits and, as Mr Gupta says, they have billions and billions of debt."

He added: "This is my own view, these are good assets. I think there are good competent people who are managing them. There is an incredibly talented and focused and passionate workforce who can make it work.

"I think it can work but what I won't rush into is giving any guarantees in this committee or in any other forum. It is a patient game."

Mr Kwarteng also rejected calls to bring an end to new licences for North Sea oil and gas as part of efforts to fight climate change.

Last month, the government set out its transition plans for the North Sea but failed to rule out new licences for oil and gas.

The UK’s net zero law requires the country to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, and take steps such as planting trees to absorb any remaining pollution.

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