Sajid Javid
Business Secretary will visit the South Wales plant after cutting short his trip to Australia Reuters

Business Secretary Sajid Javid arguably faces his biggest test yet as he attempts to convince Port Talbot steelworkers that the government is on their side. The top Conservative met heavy criticism for flying to Australia, while Labour MPs and union chiefs travelled to Mumbai in a failed bid to convince Tata Steel bosses of a turn-around plan.

At least 15,000 jobs are now at risk after the Indian conglomerate announced it would sell off its entire loss-making UK business. Port Talbot, in South Wales, is expected to be hit hardest with 4,000 workers facing an uncertain future.

The government is also facing criticism over it links with the Chinese government, amid allegations that Chinese companies have undercut competitors by dumping cheap steel into the European market.

Labour's Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, accused George Osborne and David Cameron of being Beijing's "chief cheerleaders" in Europe.

"Ever since 2010 when the prime minister declared he would "make the case for China to get market economy status", he and Osborne have been Beijing's chief cheerleaders in Europe. Cameron and Osborne know that the granting of market economy status would dramatically reduce the European commission's ability to impose tariffs on dumped Chinese steel," Kinnock argued.

"These are not party-political points. These are the views of the steel industry itself. It has repeatedly urged the government to act, and to stop promoting China's cause in Europe."

Meanwhile, the steelworkers' union Community accused the government of "woefully inadequate" action after Cameron killed hopes of nationalising Tata Steel's operations in the UK.

"Steelworkers across the country will be shocked that it has taken this long for the government to finally wake up to the crisis facing our steel industry," a spokesman for the union said.

"Community, the steelworkers' union, has always been keen to work constructively with government, but Javid cannot simply arrive at Port Talbot and read out his list of "achievements" - this week's news is proof that government action thus far has been woefully inadequate.

"The government must commit to safeguarding the skills and assets of Britain's steel industry. The UK simply cannot afford to lose our steelmaking capacity."

Elsewhere, more than 125,000 people have signed an online petition tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to recall parliament during the Easter break. "The prime minister has offered no solutions today to the threat to our steel industry," Corbyn said.

"His government is failing thousands of Tata steelworkers whose jobs are on the line. It's not good enough for David Cameron to stand by and say the situation is difficult."

The crisis has also triggered a debate around the forthcoming EU referendum, with Eurosceptics pointing out the government would face difficulty taking the steelmaker into public hands because of EU rules.

"With 40,000 jobs linked to the industry now on the brink, Cameron claims he doesn't think nationalisation is the answer – but he's only pretending that the decision is his," said Leave.EU spokesman Jack Montgomery.

"As the European Commission made clear in January, 'EU state aid rules do not allow public support for the rescue and restructuring of companies in difficulty in the steel sector'. We can only untie our hands by leaving the EU, and if the unions don't want Port Talbot to turn into a Welsh Detroit they need to start shouting this from the rooftops."