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Tom urges UK government to ‘stand up for UK steel and change stance on Chinese dumping’

Ahead of today’s (29th February 2016) Opposition Day Debate on the UK Steel Industry, Chair of the All Part Parliamentary Group for Steel and Labour MP for Middlesbrough south and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has urged the UK government to change tact and join forces with other European countries and scrap the lesser duty rule.

Tom said:
“Unfortunately there is a significant gap between rhetoric and reality in this Tory Governments efforts to protect the steel industry in the UK. Ministers claims to have complied with 4 of the 5 industry ‘asks’ including “backing EU level on anti-dumping measures”, but their opposition to scrapping the lesser duty rule is preventing any real action Chinese dumping into the European market.

“Across Europe it has been widely recognized that this outdated rule is killing off the steel industry and the European Commission scrapping it. Despite this, not only is the UK Government blocking scrapping it but has even argued that end users of steel need access to cheap Chinese product. This is a real kick in the teeth to steelworkers in the UK who have lost their jobs or are under threat of job losses.

“Whether in or out of Europe, Cameron wants to give China market economy status, meaning we would not be able to challenge any form of dumping. This will have significant consequences for all energy intensives in Teesside and across the UK.

“Time is running out for the steel industry in the UK so I am urging the Government to stop blocking this essential rule change and stand up for UK steel.”

Tom urges Post Office to “think again” over possible Saltburn Post Office move

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (26th February 2016) called on Post Office Counters to “think again” about newly revealed plans to relocate the Saltburn sub post office.

Tom said:
“Over the past week we have received news that yet again the privatized Post Office Counters business want to relocate long established branches in East Cleveland. A year back, it was in Brotton, where despite protests and what looked to be maladministration by the firm, the branch in the central High Street post office closed, and was relocated in a convenience store on an outlying village estate.

“Now they are looking to try and play the same game in Saltburn. They have just informed me that following the retirement of the present postmaster from the Station Square premises, they intend to set up a new counter in the Nisa mini-market store on the town’s Windsor Road.

“This, if it is allowed to slip through, will inconvenience many. The Station Square location is, handy for anyone wanting to combine their shopping with a visit to the post office as well.  It is central to the town, and is opposite bus stops for buses going to Marske Mill Lane and Hob Hill and also along Marske Road.

“All this, in my opinion, will be lost in any move to Nisa. Not only is it not in the town centre, but it is also a walk from any bus stop. Anyone wanting to do more than food shopping and visit a post office will now be faced with a walk along Windsor Road.

“When we tried to stop the Brotton post office move we found that Post Office Counters had “omitted” to talk to other possible partners in the shape of the Co-op or Spar. I suspect the same may be true in Saltburn, and I will be asking if they had considered making an approach to Sainsbury’s on the Station Shopping site or to other shops in the town centre. I will, in any case, be making a formal objection to the move and asking for a Town Centre presence to be maintained.”

Dumping by Government of CCS funding “could now bring about black-outs” warns Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (26th February 2016) warned that UK energy experts were now predicting that the cancellation of funding for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects alongside new power generation plants by the Government could “now lead to possible power shortages and danger of blackouts”.

Tom’s comments came following the release of a study by the respected UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) who in a report published today stated that “importing gas will have a severely limited role to play in the UK’s energy mix in the next two decades without the development of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide”.

Tom said:
“Their report makes sobering reading. They argue that the proposal by the Government that the UK simply imports more gas for power generation as a bridge between today’s needs and new nuclear power stations coming on line is fatally flawed if CCS is not used from the outset. Their report shows that, without CCS, the UK will only be able to use 10% more gas in 2050 than it did in 2010 if legally binding climate change targets are to be met.

“This will a severe limitation to companies wishing to generate power from gas in the long term, and it poses a question mark over the future for the UK’s domestic heating, for which gas is the primary fuel.

“The report says that if all coal-fired power generation is to be removed by 2025, and we are no longer supporting the development of CCS, policy makers must think long and hard about how best to replace that capacity as without CCS, gas can play only a modest role between now and 2020 if we are not to break international climate change agreements.

“My view is that this just shows how short sighted the government were to announce to the Stock Exchange that they were no longer to support CCS development, like the plants proposed on Teesside. If gas is limited, both by climate change agreements and by delays due to the widespread opposition to UK fracking, this, taken together with previous cut backs to renewable energy generation and delays in the building of new nuclear plants, means that power shortages in the future are well-nigh inevitable.

“There is an answer if the government had the vision, and it is a simple one. Simply get the Teesside CCS plans out on the table again, and then sit down with the Tees Energy and Chemical Process leaders to discuss how best and how quickly to get CCS up and running before the lights go out.”

Parliamentary steel group ‘deeply disappointed’ by government decision to block higher tariffs on cheap Chinese steel

Yesterday (11th February 2016) the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel and Metal Related industries wrote to Business Minister Sajid Javid to register their ‘deep disappointment’ with the UK government’s decision to block attempts at an EU level to scrap the ‘Lesser Duty Rule’ (LDR) to allow higher tariffs on steel-dumping nations like China.

The proposal to scrap the LDR was put forward by other EU member states but was blocked by the UK government.

EU tariffs on steel are currently around 9%, significantly lower than a US Department of Commerce proposal for tariffs of up to 236% on some subsidised steel products.

The APPG have asked the government to reconsider their position on scrapping the LDR.

 

Text of the letter:

 

Dear Secretary of State,

 

We are writing on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel and Metal Related Industries to register our deep disappointment with your announcement yesterday in front of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee that you will not reconsider the UK’s position on the Lesser Duty Rule (LDR).

 

On hearing what you said to the committee, we can only conclude that the letter you signed in support of steel industry last week was just a formality and that you are unwilling to combat the flood of cheap steel that is causing the loss of thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs and destroying communities.

 

As the Business Minister has highlighted today, the duties imposed on certain cases do not reflect an accurate estimate of the harm caused, and do not have the teeth to halt the enormous increase in exports from China, which are driving our steel manufacturers out of business.

 

We strongly support free trade, however if an anti-dumping complaint is upheld by the EU Commission, then it clearly shows that this trade is not taking place fairly. The elimination of the LDR would create an incentive to withdraw the very root causes of trade distortions by third countries (subsidisation and government intervention in their domestic markets). This would also bring the EU into line with other countries, notably the United States of America.

 

Anti-dumping measures, as low as 9%, cannot remedy the massive injury caused by Chinese steel import surges.

 

We urgently call on the Government to reconsider its position on LDR given the reasons outlined above. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Tom Blenkinsop MP
(Group Chair)

 

Anna Turley MP
(Group Secretary)

Tom Blenkinsop MP hails “historic” Court of Appeal decision on the Bedroom Tax

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (27th January 2016) greeted what he called an “historic” Court of Appeal judgement which said that the Government’s keystone Bedroom Tax was “discriminatory”.

Tom said:
“This morning we have learnt that the Appeal Court, hearing two test cases, have ruled that this tax discriminates against the disabled and victims of domestic violence.

“The bedroom tax, or what the government continue to call the “spare room subsidy”, cuts benefits for social housing tenants who have a “spare” bedroom.

“One appeal concerned the effect of the policy on women living in properties adapted because of risks to their lives. Her home was equipped with a panic room. The second appeal focused on the impact of the policy on disabled children needing overnight care.

“These are far more far-reaching than previous judgements which hung on technicalities in the regulations. This one is based on needs of the registered disabled across all boundaries and to all victims of domestic violence.

“We are told that Iain Duncan Smith has said he will be trying to appeal this at the Supreme Court, but the strength of this judgement is such that he cannot be confident of holding the line on this extortionate and grossly unfair tax.

“In the meantime this will be a poser for councils, housing associations and the DWP. I would hope that these agencies will now pause their decisions affecting these groups of people.

Tom lambasts decision to cancel CCS funding for UK projects whilst handing £35m to projects in China and Indonesia

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (26th January 2016) attacked the Government’s decision to  investment £35m to help China and Indonesia develop Carbon Capture and Storage technology whilst withdrawing funding for the CCS Commercialisation Programme just 4 weeks before submission of final bids.

Tom said:
“The decision by George Osborne to cancel the funding for CCS in his Spending Review last year has been widely condemned by industry experts and climate change campaigners alike. Indeed the Energy and Climate Change Committee, of which I am a member, launched an inquiry into the ‘future of carbon capture and storage in the UK’.

“Questions need to be asked why millions of pounds for similar CCS projects in China and Indonesia have been given by the UK Government whilst funding has removed from the UK programme. How much more has been given to similar overseas projects that would seemingly fly-in the face of supporting UK jobs?

“The future of CCS in the UK – and in particular Industrial CCS projects like the Teesside Collective – is heavily dependent on public support. The Government urgently needs to clarify just how much funding has gone overseas.”

Braving the cold to raise awareness of homelessness across Teesside

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, will be taking part in ‘The Real High Street Sleep Out’ this Saturday night (23rd January 2016) in Redcar.

The High Street Sleep Out in Redcar is returning for its 4th Annual Fundraising and Homelessness awareness event to raise funds for local Redcar charity Coatham House, which has been providing supported accommodation to local young homeless people for the last 20 years.

Ahead of the event Tom said:
“If the weather is as cold as it has been over the past few days then I think it is fair to say we’ll be in for a rough night. Unfortunately, that is the reality for too many people every night. Fighting youth homelessness should be a priority, but it is a scandal that it does not receive the attention it deserves.

“Earlier this week results from a survey carried out by Shelter revealed that nearly one in three adults fear they would have nowhere to go and would end up homeless if their relationship broke down and relationship breakdown is the third most common cause of people ending up homeless.

“I hope this year’s sleep out continues to raise awareness – and more importantly funds to tackle – this important issue.”

To sponsor Tom and others at the sleep out you can donate securely online by visiting www.justgiving.com/coatham-house

‘Another nail in the coffin for UK steel industry’ say Teesside MPs

Amid reports today (18th January 2016) that hundreds of jobs are to be lost at Tata’s Port Talbot plant Labour MP and Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Steel and Metal Related Industry, Tom Blenkinsop, and Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, claimed that the move was “another nail in the coffin for the UK steel industry”.

Tom commented:
“This is devastating news for the Port Talbot community, so I would first and foremost like to offer my support for those workers affected at this difficult time.

“We’ve barely started 2016 and already the crisis within the UK steel industry has reared its ugly head. The Government’s inaction is unpalatable. They are sitting on their hands, with regards to four of the five proposals from the steel summit, and allowing this crisis to wreak havoc on steel communities across the UK.

“None of those asks are about propping up the industry but providing it with a level playing field. This is going to be harder to do the longer they wait, particularly if China gains ‘Market Economy Status’ – a point I raised with EU bosses last week.

“I now simply ask the Government ‘how many more communities need to lose their main life support before they do anything?’”

Anna added:
“Having experienced the devastating loss of steel jobs in our own area, my thoughts are with the workers in other steel communities, particularly Port Talbot, whose jobs are now also at risk.

“All we are asking of the government is to get behind the industry by taking action on Chinese dumping and uncompetitive business rates and give UK steel a fighting chance of survival. They need to start delivering on their promises of support and prioritise UK industry over its cheerleading for China.

“Inaction has already cost us one steelworks, it need not cost anymore if the government act now.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP takes case for steel protection from China to Europe

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, has just returned from a visit to meet top European Commission heads as part of a campaign to stop the dumping of Chinese steel on European and UK markets – dumping that damages Teesside’s steel industry   Central to this was a call to stop Europe and the UK Government giving greater access to markets via a new trade agreement.

Tom said:
“Yesterday (13th January 2016) myself and colleagues from the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee met with the EU commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.

“We were there to lobby against China being allowed to gain what is called “Market Economy Status”, (MES)  something that would give China greater ability to penetrate European market places. This is already a big problem. European industries say that Beijing’s policies lead Chinese firms to pump out far more goods than China’s domestic market can consume. The result has been a flood of cheap products shipped to Europe, the U.S. and other developed markets. Granting China market-economy treatment would make matters immeasurably worse leaving European manufacturers with few tools to protect themselves.

“This decision is especially important to British manufacturing and Energy using industries such as Steel and chemicals – both crucial to the entire Teesside economy.

“The Vice President confirmed that that decision will be made this autumn after debate between member states and within the European Parliament.

“There is a British dimension here – and it is David Cameron and George Osborne’s position in supporting Chinese Market Economy Status regardless of whether the UK remains in the EU, or leaves?

“Chinese dumping in steel and other products has been down to deliberate over production, often dumped at below cost price, breaking market rules as laid down by transnational institutions like the World Trade Organisation. As recent as December 2015, at the steel OECD meeting, China refused to attend. The assumption being that they wanted to avoid questions about their dumping across the world market.

“The implications of giving China MES status without any qualification, clarification or caveat upon their current production levels-at emission levels that far exceed anything emitted by any EU producing steel site gives serious cause for worry for the British steel industry.

“The British Governments unqualified support for Chinese MES, whether the UK remains within the EU, or leaves, is also deeply worrying to me, and other MP’s representing steel industry communities.  It is quite clear that blaming the EU for the current woes within the energy intensive industries sector – as our government does – is simply not credible. It does not stand up.

“We are still waiting on a Government response to the four of the five industrial asks made in October at the emergency steel summit after the SSI collapse. One of these was about the situation facing the steel industry in the UK regarding Chinese dumping.

“Put simply, unless we stop MES for China, or at the very least get concessions out in place prior to MES for China around China’s own emissions and over production, addressing any other policy ask will be irrelevant in the face of the current tsunami of Chinese products flooding the UK market and killing UK jobs and industrial communities like Teesside.”

Fall in bus usage shows need for reform and investment

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (11th January 2016)n condemned government cuts to bus services after official figures released by the Department for Transport  showed that in Redcar and Cleveland 27% fewer bus journeys were made in 2014-15 compared with 2009-10 – the biggest decline in England.

Commenting on the news Tom Blenkinsop said:
“For many people across Redcar and Cleveland buses are a vital part of their daily lives –  helping them to get to work, attend doctors’ appointments or collecting the weekly shop. But this decline in bus usage is very concerning and doesn’t seem to have an end.

“Unfortunately, we effectively have one operator that runs a monopoly bus service in Redcar and Cleveland and they have systematically removed bus routes that local people have relied on for years.

“Compounding this is the cuts to local government funding which means less funding is available for supported bus services. These routes are often the ones people and communities need most, where no alternative transport exists.

“To halt the decline we need to see, as part of the Government’s Buses Bill, powers given to communities to plan fares, routes and timetables and investment to reflect local needs.”