BIDDERS for a steelmaker’s UK plants could work together to secure 600 North-East jobs, The Northern Echo understands.

Liberty House and Excalibur have submitted separate approaches for Tata Steel’s loss-making sites, which include the Hartlepool pipe mills.

However, it is believe Excalibur, a management buyout team comprising a number of senior Tata officials, is prepared to support Liberty’s plans.

The Northern Echo understands any backing would not constitute a joint bid or merger.

Tata is expected to pore over bids from interested parties this week, with other approaches believed to include proposals from turnaround fund Endless and investor Greybull Capital, which last month bought Tata’s Long Products division.

Sanjeev Gupta, Liberty’s executive chairman, previously said his venture wants to switch from steelmaking in traditional blast furnaces to recycling steel in electric arc furnaces, though it is understood such a change would have no effect Tata’s Hartlepool plants, which process steel for the offshore energy industry.

Excalibur previously warned 1,000 jobs could be cut under its plans.

Mr Gupta said: “Britain invented modern steel yet a staggering 80 per cent of the 21 million tonnes we consume every year comes from abroad.

“Today’s steel crisis is a wake-up call; we are at a crossroads.

“However, if we make the right choices now, we’ll not only save the tens of thousands of jobs but we’ll open the doors to create hundreds of thousands more.

“We can turn the tide and almost double the amount of steel made here; if we’re prepared to reform our steel industry then far more of the coil, plate, tube and bar that goes into our buildings, vehicles and household appliances would originate here.

“We need to get a proper balance between the amount of brand new steel we make in blast furnaces and the amount of scrap we melt in modern electric arc furnaces for recycling.”

The prospective agreement was revealed on the same day the Government was warned by North-East MP Tom Blenkinsop to put differences aside over Tata’s £15bn pension pot.

Downing Street previously pledged support for any buyer of Tata’s remaining businesses, which are being offloaded due to lower steel prices, higher energy bills and greater Chinese imports.

However, it is now understood a deal could be derailed by a ministerial division on the best way to manage Tata’s pension scheme, with potential suitors thought to be unwilling to take on the burden.

The Department for Business is said to be supporting plans to spin off the fund into a separate entity, effectively as a new scheme, which would be underwritten by the Government.

However, it is believed the Department for Work and Pensions has reservations.

But Mr Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland, who is also chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Group on steel, said such unrest could jeopardise a sale.

He added: “Bickering in the corridors of Whitehall is directly affecting lives here on Teesside; the Hartlepool mills are all up for sale with hundreds of jobs on the line.

“That's why I’m calling on (Business Secretary) Sajid Javid and (Pensions Secretary) Stephen Crabb to put their differences aside and work together to find a buyer.”

Any sale would come after Greybull spent £1 to buy Tata’s loss-making Long Products, which employs about 900 people across the North-East and York.

The investor plans to spend £400m on the venture and says it will rekindle the British Steel name at its sites, which include the Teesside Beam Mill, near Redcar, a Darlington steel finishing base and a York design hub.