THE Welsh Government has “cautiously welcomed” the joint venture between Tata Steel UK and German firm Thyssenkrupp but want reassurances over continued investment in Welsh operations and the job protection.

A “memorandum of understanding” was signed by the two companies which could lead to the creation of the second largest steel business in Europe.

Speaking at the Senedd on Wednesday, Ken Skates AM, the cabinet secretary for the economy and infrastructure noted his appreciation to the “loyal, dedicated and skilled workers employed by Tata across Wales”.

He said: “They have shown incredible patience and loyalty. They have sacrificed in terms of their pension in reaching the point that we are at.

“They deserved to be shown equal respect and credit by Tata as an employer as they move towards the joint venture.”

Mr Skates added that he has been given assurances that joint venture will safeguard steel sites across Wales.

“I’ve been given assurance over the assets that exist across Wales and the UK that they will be no closures,” said the minister.

In an additional statement, he added: “Clearly we will now need to gain a more detailed understanding of the process ahead and the implications for Welsh operations and we will be seeking further detail from Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp.

“At the same time we will reiterate our expectation regarding continued investment in Welsh operations and the safeguarding of jobs.”

Newport East MP Jessica Morden, added she would inquiring with Tata with regard to the joint venture to understand any potential effects the deal could have on her constituency.

She said: “Those working in the steel industry in Newport have been though very difficult times this last few years not least with the recent changes to their pensions to help secure their jobs.

“It’s really important we get more details from Tata about what this memorandum of understanding means in practise and assurances about future operations in Newport where we make top quality steel and I’ll be working with the unions and the Welsh Government, and talking with the company to do this.”

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government added: “While we need to consider the proposal in detail, we recognise the potential opportunities arising from the creation of Europe’s second largest steel company.

“We also recognise the commitment to continue with the present network of the three European hubs, including Port Talbot.

“We remain fully committed to doing everything we can to support the Welsh steel industry.

“However, it remains clear that wider factors continue to impact on the sustainability of the UK steel sector and we again call upon the UK Government to take action on matters including the cost of energy.”

Andrew Robb, Tata Steel Europe’s chairman, said: “This announcement marks the latest step in building a future for Tata Steel’s activities in Europe which is sustainable in every sense.”

“Both Tata Steel Europe and Thyssenkrupp share a vision of supplying the most advanced quality products and services to customers in the world’s most demanding markets.

“The combination of our two businesses would provide the strongest possible foundation for achieving this vision, creating a global leader for the long term.”