During an opposition day debate on the steel crisis, Bill Cash made the following interventions:
Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I beg to move,
That this House believes that the UK steel industry is of national strategic importance and should be supported by the UK Government; notes that the UK steel industry is in crisis and that the recent closure of SSI in Redcar has resulted in 2,000 direct job losses, with a further 1,000 contractor jobs lost and 6,000 jobs to be lost in the local supply chain, the announcement by Tata Steel that they will no longer produce steel plate at Dalzell, Clydebridge and Scunthorpe has resulted in 1,170 job losses, and that 1,700 jobs are at risk as Caparo Industries has gone into administration; recognises that for every direct steel job lost a further three indirect job losses will follow; further notes the vital importance of the steel industry to those local communities it serves, the proud industrial heritage of Britain’s steel towns and the very real threat to these parts of the country should the steel industry disappear; and calls upon the Government to take immediate action to protect the steel industry, including immediately implementing the Energy Intensive Industry Compensation Package, taking action with the EU Commission on antidumping measures, looking at temporary action on business rates, reviewing how regulatory frameworks impact the industry, and promoting local content and sustainability in procurement contacts, and for the Government to publish a full industrial strategy including what level of capacity the Government envisages is needed in the steel industry, so as to safeguard this vital strategic asset.
Labour has secured this debate because the British steel industry is in full-scale crisis, and before they were pushed the Government seemed unwilling to do anything practical about it. In the last three weeks, 2,220 employees in Redcar have lost their jobs, 3,000 on-site contractors have been laid off, and 6,000 further jobs will be lost in the local community. The hard closure of the site means the effective destruction of its steelmaking assets, including what was the second largest blast furnace in Europe. The Government’s refusal to help has effectively ended 170 years of steelmaking in Redcar, destroying specialist local skills and condemning the community to a bleak future. Tata Steel’s announcement about the closure of its long products business in Scunthorpe, Dalzell and Clydebridge has cost 1,170 jobs, and effectively ended steelmaking in Scotland. The news that Caparo Industries has filed for administration means that 1,700 more jobs are at risk across the country.
Alongside the tragedy of each job loss, and the ramifications for supply chains and local economies, there is a real worry that the UK’s steelmaking capacity is being sacrificed on the altar of laissez-faire economics by a Government who simply will not act to preserve our country’s strategic assets. Labour contends that steelmaking in the UK is an industry of national strategic importance and should therefore be supported by the Government.
Steel is important for UK manufacturing as it helps our balance of payments, and it is vital for our defence and security. If we are about to embark on the huge infrastructure investments that the Chancellor is so fond of boasting about, surely we should ensure that
UK steel has every chance to compete and win those contracts. To do that, we must ensure that the UK steel industry still exists when those contracts come up for competition. As the industry has lurched deeper into this wholly foreseeable crisis, the Government have been quick to come up with expressions of sympathy, but noticeably reluctant to take any decisive action.
Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): I lived in Sheffield for the best part of 30 years. Does the hon. Lady accept that the real decline in the steel industry started with the horrendous nationalisation of the industry by the Labour party? What steps have Labour Governments ever taken to restrict state aid in other parts of the European Union, and from countries such as Germany and others?
Ms Eagle: I suspect that the nationalisation of the steel industry took place before I was born, and we could have a history lesson on that. There are many examples of EU Governments who do a much better job at preserving their steel industries than this Government appear to have done so far.
Sir William Cash: The hon. Lady will know that the German Government provided subsidies for the training of employees, including steelworkers, to the value of €5.7 billion in 2013.
Anna Turley: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We should look at how the Germans support and respect industry and manufacturing.
Sir William Cash: They were allowed to do that by the EU.
Anna Turley: Absolutely. If they do it, why can’t we? I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman. We should also look at how the Germans support industry throughout their education system. He makes an important point.(…)