Archive for Steel

MPs question Business Minister on crisis in UK steel industry

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.”

‘Every option should remain on the table to save steelworks’

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Steel and Metal Related Industry, Tom Blenkinsop MP, has today (30 March 2016) demanded that the Government “does whatever it takes to ensure a future for the steel industry in the UK.”

Commenting following the Tata board meeting in Mumbai yesterday on the future of their UK business, which includes the Port Talbot steelworks as well as local sites at Skinningrove and Hartlepool, Tom said:

“Thousands of workers and their families will have started today in limbo. Yesterday was meant to provide clarity over the future of Tata’s sites in the UK – one way or another. This ongoing uncertainty is a disgrace.

“Any assistance must be made available to retain our British steel making capability perfectly reasonable to step in to maintain assets until market settles.

“If the Government are actively looking into some kind of temporary nationalisation then we need details sooner rather than later. However, when I and Redcar MP, Anna Turley, called for state intervention at SSI in Redcar, we were given a definite no by the Government. Things have certainly changed.

“Steel making remains a key industry that is hugely important for our economy and the Government urgently needs to realise that. The Government needs to do whatever it takes to save this vital strategic industry which is the cornerstone of our manufacturing sector.”

Tom backs steel union’s Port Talbot campaign

Tom Blenkinsop MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Steel and Metal related industry, has today (23rd March 2016) pledged his support for the Community Union campaign which calls on the board of Tata Steel to back the rescue plan for Port Talbot steelworks

Tata’s board is meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday 29th March to consider the turnaround plan to save Strip Products UK.

Tom said:
“This campaign is about more than steel plants. This is about the future of steel communities, UK manufacturing and an industry that has been the beating heart of South Wales for over a century. Communities that rely on steel for jobs and homes.

“Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union and Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon will be travelling to Mumbai to ensure the voices of British workers are heard loud and clear and show Tata the importance of this industry to families and communities across the UK.

“All those who care about our steel industry can demonstrate your support for the thousands of workers whose livelihoods hang in the balance and will be impacted by this decision taken in Mumbai by sharing the campaign video of steelworkers and their families who would suffer most is our steelworks were to close.

“It’s vital that we do everything to build a sustainable steel industry of the future and I hope you will join us in doing everything possible to retain steelmaking capacity in the UK.

The campaign video can be found here: http://www.community-tu.org/campaigns/a-message-to-tata/

‘Steel deal needs to be transparent’ urge Teesside MPs

Chair and Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Steel and Metal Related Industry, Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley have today (15th March 2016) called for transparency as reports have emerged that the Government may provide a loan to fund Greybull’s takeover of Tata’s long products division, including sites on Teesside.

According to reports, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is likely to provide a loan of around £70m to £80m to Greybull as part of the sale which is estimated to cost £400m in total.

Commenting on the reports, Tom said:
“Securing this deal could prove vital to protecting thousands of jobs in the steel industry but transparency around the deal is vital.

“I would like to know what are the intentions of both companies for Teesside Beam Mill, the grove and the site in Hartlepool? Furthermore, have the government assessed the impact upon the former SSI site and would Tata land there be part of the sale? This could have serious implications for the regeneration of the former Redcar steelworks site.

“If the UK steel industry is to survive then deals like this need to be scrutinised to ensure they are in the best interest of UK taxpayers.”

Anna added:
“There is still a future for the steel industry on Teesside with the remaining Tata assets, including the site at Lackenby in Redcar, continuing to provide highly skilled jobs. The progression of the Greybull deal to secure the future of Tata’s long products division is promising but we needs some clarity about what this means for jobs locally.”

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.”

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)

‘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.”

Tata Steel must adhere to commitment to being a responsible seller for Long Products following announcement

Commenting on reports that a “Letter of Intent” has been signed between Greybull Capital and Tata Steel UK Limited to enter exclusive negotiations for the potential sale of its Long Products Europe business, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“If operated correctly then there is no reason for the long products division, such as those sites at Skinningrove in east Cleveland and Lackenby near Redcar, to not succeed so I cautiously welcome the interest from Greybull Capital. I’ll be working closely with unions to ensure the best deal for steel workers as is often the case the devil is in the detail of any deal that is struck.

“Tata steel made a commitment to being a responsible seller and I will certainly be holding them to that commitment. So if Greybull Capital come up with a sustainable plan and long-term investment to support the sites and its workers then I welcome that.

“Furthermore, after this week’s damning report by the BIS committee over the Government’s handling of the UK steel crisis it is imperative that they demonstrate that they have learnt their lesson and ensure they take an active role to allow this deal to succeed and provide a future for those hundreds of steel workers.”

Response to BIS Committee report on UK Steel crisis

Responding to the report released today (21st December 2015) by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee regarding the UK Steel industry and the Government’s response to the crisis, Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East said:

“This is a damning report released by the BIS committee that clearly sets out that the government failed to react to the warning signs that preluded the crisis in the UK steel industry. Years of inaction, despite numerous calls from a range of interested parties, has almost put the UK steel industry out of business and on Teesside the industry that defined an area has pretty much disappeared.

“Particularly of note in the report is the request for the Government to act on the ‘5 asks’ that came from the steel summit held in October. It has been well over a month since the steel summit in Rotherham, and only one of the five industrial asks has been met despite ministerial assurances that they would be met before Christmas.

“The urgency of this UK steel crisis is becoming more acute, with the situation worsening. Government must act now, and industry must hang in there and not resort to not using the crisis as an excuse to attack workers terms and conditions, nor dissolve strategic UK assets.”