MPs fight to save hundreds of jobs at smelter

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FEARS over potential job losses at one of south east Northumberland’s biggest employers have been raised in two parliaments.

North east MPs have taken up the fight to save hundreds of jobs after it was revealed that Lynemouth’s Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter and power station could be closed, as reported in the News Post Leader.

Bosses at the multinational company are confident of being able to sell the power station, securing 120 jobs, but have admitted they are less optimistic about finding a buyer for the aluminium smelter, putting 630 jobs at risk.

North east Conservative MEP Martin Callanan raised the issue in Strasbourg last week, saying the situation had been caused by the European Union’s obsession with environment restrictions that had “strangled” Alcan’s competitiveness.

He told the European Parliament: “Alcan is a large aluminium smelter which, earlier this month, announced that it may have to close because it has effectively been strangled by EU legislation.

“The Emissions Trading Scheme and Large Combustion Plants Directives have caused Alcan to face serious competitivity problems.

“Closure of the plant will mean the direct loss of around 750 jobs and many more indirectly.

“I and many others warned about the knock-on effects of ill-thought out legislation such as this, but our concerns were brushed aside by over-zealous environmentalists whose fixation on reducing carbon emissions made them deaf to all arguments about the economic and environmental damage they were wreaking.”

And the issue has been raised in the House of Commons with local MPs supporting the jobs at the Lynemouth plant.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith questioned Chris Huhne MP, secretary of state for energy and climate change, about what the government will do to secure jobs.

Mr Beith said: “As Rio Tinto has shown itself more determined to sell aluminium plants across the world, including in Lynemouth, than to engage in the discussions that the Secretary of State has been willing to have with it, is he equally willing to have discussions with any new buyer who might be prepared to take on the Lynemouth plant?”

And Mr Huhne welcomed the suggestion, saying: “I would be delighted to have discussions.

“I want to see jobs preserved both at Lynemouth and in the rest of the country.

“We hope that aluminium can continue to be produced in this country because, in our thrust towards low-carbon transition, we will need aluminium as part of the raw materials for that revolution.”

Afterwards, Mr Beith said: “The loss of over 600 jobs would be devastating to Northumberland.

“I am pleased Chris Huhne has given his assurance that he will try to preserve these jobs in Lynemouth, however, we should be preparing for the possibility of no buyer coming forward for the Aluminium Smelter.

“If this happens I will be calling for the whole former mining area from Blyth to Amble to be given Enterprise Zone status.”