HUNDREDS of North-East steel making jobs can be saved, it has been claimed, as politicians called for the option to nationalise British Steel to "remain on the table".

Earlier this week, it was announced that Britain's second-largest steel producer was on the brink of collapse putting thousands of jobs at risk, including hundreds in the North East at sites in Lackenby and Skinningrove.

British Steel went into administration on Wednesday after rescue talks with the Government collapsed, but at an emergency meeting attended by North-East politicians in Stockton yesterday, politicians from all parties said they were focused on "securing a new owner for British Steel in its entirety".

The Northern Echo:

A joint statement from Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and the region's MPs and council leaders, said: “We, as the region’s Mayors, council leaders and MPs, have today met for an urgent summit called to discuss the ongoing British Steel crisis.

“The news that the company has entered liquidation and that 700 direct jobs in Tees Valley, with hundreds more in the supply chain, could be threatened has understandably caused a lot of anguish and uncertainty for workers and their families. We know all too well the devastation and heartache caused when more than 3,000 people lost their jobs overnight following the closure of the SSI Steelworks nearly four years ago.

“We are determined to learn from the lessons of SSI and ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. We have vowed to do all we can to protect British Steel’s profitable plants at Lackenby and Skinningrove, and safeguard all 700 jobs in the region.

“This issue is bigger than party politics, and that is why we have come to work together and stand united to fight for our region. While we wait to hear the details of the liquidator’s plans our immediate and overriding priority is to support efforts to secure a new owner for British Steel in its entirety.

“We also maintain that all options to save the company must remain on the table, including significant public subsidy and nationalisation.

“Together we are calling on Government to step up, work with local political leaders and do all that is needed to avert a second blow to our region’s livelihood.”

The Northern Echo: VICTOR: Winning Conservative candidate Ben Houchen Picture: CHRIS BOOTH

After the meeting, Mr Houchen said: "It was important to establish what our view was and I'm pleased that we came to a consensus, and there is a measured and quiet optimism that we can sell the whole business as a going concern, and all the jobs in Teesside and the supply chain can be protected.

"We can't say for certain until the fat lady sings and a buyer has been found, but all of the noises at the minute are of optimism. It is a viable business and it is making money, so it is a good business, but we need to make sure a new steelmaker comes in and protects those jobs.

"We're confident a new owner can be found in the coming weeks, but my view is we need to explore if that isn't the case, rather than breaking up British Steel and closing it down, we should nationalise it temporarily and give it more breathing space until an investor can come back in.

Mr Clarke added: "I believe the jobs can be saved – the focus on the Government, management and unions and our focus is about the sale of British Steel as a going concern, which is a really important message to send out to the workers, supply chain and customers as well.

"They need to know this is not about winding up the company, it is about finding a new owner. When you hear the term insolvency, it makes it sound like it is going to the wall, but the plants will stay in operation as we try and find a new buyer.

Redcar MP Anna Turley added: “The passion of everyone at the business is second to none. I’ve been at the Lackenby Mill today meeting the workforce and the trade unions and they are all working flat out. The business has a great order book and supply will continue whilst the work to find a buyer continues.

“I’m confident we have the ingredients for success here and its down to everyone working together now to secure a positive result and prevent another crisis like the one we saw in 2015.”

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson added: "It is absolutely right that we put party politics aside to try and find a solution – the main thing we agreed on is keeping British Steel as a going concern for the whole of the UK.

"It was great to have a meeting and have everyone around the table working together to get the best for the Tees Valley.

The Northern Echo:

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald added: “The clear and agreed imperative from the meeting was to maintain our steel plants. We simply cannot allow them to close. And what was also clear was that the Official Receiver simply cannot carve up the assets and scatter to the four winds for the benefit of corporate scavengers. Seemingly that is broadly accepted and the Official Receiver will keep the businesses maintained as going concerns.

"Greybull are a disgrace and their behaviour will need investigating but that’s for a later day. The urgency is to keep this business going. I acknowledge the decision of the Business Secretary Greg Clark to indemnify the Official Receiver for the costs of running the business after the date of administration order, and we are told that there is no limit on the indemnity in terms of time or scale. That provides a mightily important breathing space.

"We also heard just how brilliantly the workforce has responded. Productivity hasn’t missed a beat and the workers should be congratulated and be somewhat assured in these difficult times that the outlook is one of cautious optimism.

"So an alternative buyer for the entire business is being sought. But whilst that search is underway it is critical that the Government instruct their officials to settle plans now to bring the entire British Steel operation covering Scunthorpe, Skinningrove, Lackenby and Darlington into public ownership by way of alternative."