Today (11th April 2016) MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, who represent constituencies affected by the steel crisis, questioned the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills on the issues in the steel industry.
Following the announcement that Tata Steel are to divest their UK assets, the APPG requested a meeting with the Minister to discuss what the Government are doing to support and protect the future of steelmaking in the UK.
In today’s Special Meeting of the cross-party group of MPs, the Minister was quizzed on what steps the Government are taking to support the UK steel industry, including on energy costs, business rates, and its continued opposition to an EU plan to remove the Lesser Duty Rule in order to better protect against Chinese steel dumping.
MPs also asked the Minister what action is being taken to support potential buyers of Tata’s strip business, including whether there would be sufficient time for buyers to be found and whether the Government would help facilitate this, including with temporary state support.
The Secretary of State said it was the Government’s intention to do all it could to ensure Tata’s assets and steel production throughout the UK continues to operate, particularly at Port Talbot.
He maintained the Government’s opposition to scrapping the Lesser Duty Rule but said that they will continue to support EU action against the dumping of steel.
Javid confirmed the Government would be making contact with over 100 prospective buyers for Tata’s strip business and would focus on a commercial solution, opposing any form of short term state stewardship.
When asked about the future of the British Steel pension scheme, the Minister said the Government were alive to the situation but could not give details at this time.
Following the meeting, Chair of the APPG Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“In the meeting today we asked the Minister a whole range of questions on the challenges facing the steel industry to ascertain what the Government are doing to help to protect a key national industry and the thousands of jobs it sustains.
“All he offered were warm words with no commitments to take real action on the issues that are holding UK steel back like higher energy costs, uncompetitive business rates, and a continued refusal to back higher EU tariffs on Chinese imports.
“I fear that, as with the loss of the SSI steelworks in Redcar, promises of ‘doing everything they can’ to secure a future for Tata’s business will result in no concrete action.
“Today’s positive news on the Long Products deal with Greybull Capital is a result of time being given to allow a deal to be negotiated. The Minister’s answers did not give me the confidence that this would be the case with Tata’s remaining assets.”