WANSBECK MP Ian Lavery has insisted there are parties interested in buying the Alcan plant in Lynemouth after securing a pledge that the Government will talk to them.
His comments have come after local MPs met Business Secretary Vince Cable to discuss plans by owner Rio Tinto Alcan to shut the smelter at Lynemouth, with the loss of 515 jobs. A 90-day consultation with staff and unions is now under way.
The company is also in discussions about the potential sale of the site’s power station, which employs 100 workers.
Earlier this week, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said he hoped the Government would be able to come forward with support through its plans for energy intensive industries that could be hit by emissions taxes coming from Westminster and the EU.
Speaking to The Journal, Mr Lavery said: “I believe there are a number of organisations who have expressed interest in the smelter and power station, but they have been knocked back. Rio Tinto sees them as not being credible.
“What I said to Vince Cable is that we should ask any interested parties to discuss it in confidence with BIS (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), who would then discuss it with Rio Tinto.
“At least then it gets over the first hurdle. BIS can establish if they are credible – and we may get the energy intensive industry support package either this week or next. Vince Cable was very amenable to that request.”
The Labour MP added: “I am not suggesting this will come off. What I am really concerned about is that at this very early stage of this consultation period, we have got to search for people because we have only got 90 days.”
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith and Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, were also present at the meeting with Mr Cable following the announcement of the planned closure of Northumberland’s biggest private sector employer last week.
Sir Alan stressed the key role of the Government, saying: “It needs to be clear the door is open for potential buyers and it is also clear that the Government need to come up with measures if that doesn’t work.”
A Rio Tinto Alcan spokesman said: “We are in consultation now and if any interest does emerge then of course we would look at that.”