Steel is a vital industry for our economy, our national security, and for the prosperity of communities outside London and the South East.
However, if the Government implements the Trade Remedies Authority recommendations to scrap nine of the nineteen safeguard tariffs on steel, it will pave the way for cheap imports that will undermine our domestic steel industry at the worst possible time.
Current trade policy is failing the UK’s regions.
In 2015, the Department for International Trade issued nine contracts to help businesses in the different English regions grow their export markets overseas. Six-month contract renewals with these companies have recently been awarded from April to September 2021.
Since 2015, the value of the contracts to support firms in London and the South East have been worth £24.6m and £27.7m respectively. Meanwhile, exporters in the North East have received support worth just £10.3m under these contracts.
This makes a mockery of the ‘levelling-up’ agenda.
The Conservatives have time and again failed to back British steel, opting instead to rely on imported steel in government procurement contracts.
Ministers and the Trade Remedies Authority are undermining an industry that directly employs nearly 34,000 people in high-wage, high-skilled jobs and supports a further 42,000 in supply chains.
Labour has pledged to “Build it in Britain” to create UK manufacturing jobs in the low-carbon infrastructure of the future. We cannot allow the government to offshore this industry.
British steel should be at the heart of every major UK defence and infrastructure project.
We need to see investment in decarbonisation and hydrogen technology that will enable our steel industry to lead the way towards achieving the UK’s net zero target, and safeguard good, well-paid, green jobs in the process.
We need a trade policy that empowers workers.
Labour warned that the lack of representation for industry and unions on the Trade Remedies Authority would be detrimental and lead to the kind of recommendations that this motion seeks to reject today.
My own union, Unite, which represents thousands of members in all areas of the steel industry, is urging the Government to take immediate action to stabilise the industry.
I share the concerns of Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner who said, “there is a real danger that a combination of ideology and the wrong political choices will open the gates to cheap imports, which will costs thousands of skilled jobs and devastate local communities.”
The government may be willing to abandon steel workers and their communities, but Labour will do whatever it takes to defend and protect them, and build a stronger, greener, more prosperous British steel industry for the future.