THE order book of British Steel remains "exceptionally strong", politicians have claimed, as they warn the planned reduction in output at a North-East site has nothing to do with its sale.

Dozens of potential buyers have expressed an interest in saving Britain's second-largest steel producer, which employs thousands of workers, including 700 in the North East at sites in Lackenby and Skinningrove.

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Redcar MP Anna Turley both took part in a conference call with Business Secretary Greg Clark about the latest situation, and have taken steps to reassure people that the annual summer maintenance at Lackenby will go ahead as planned.

Mr Houchen said: "The planned reduction in output at the Lackenby plant happens each and every year - it has nothing to do with the sale of the company. This is needed so that maintenance can be carried out and needed to sustain good health and safety practices.

"A number of companies continue to work on their detailed bids to buy the whole of British Steel. All bids need to be submitted to the Official Receiver by June 30.

"A big selling point to potential buyers is that the company's order book is exceptionally strong, and that British Steel's excellent workforce are continuing to break production records.

"Lackenby and Skinningrove are profitable plants and my number one priority remains saving jobs. As I have said countless times, if we cannot find a suitable buyer, we must look at significant public subsidy or wholesale nationalisation."

Ms Turley said: "The British Steel Support Group had a positive conference call with the Business Secretary to discuss the progress of talks with potential buyers and other issues.

"The workforce continue to break production records and they deserve a huge thanks for their hard work and professionalism at this challenging time. Thanks to their efforts, the business is continuing to fulfil orders.

"Teesside Beam Mill also has its annual summer maintenance period coming up, which is crucial for keeping everything running smoothly, and this is on track to go ahead as normal.

"I am reassured that Greg and his team of officials in government, alongside the official receiver, are working hard to find the best buyer."