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Steel Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:09 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 12:09 pm, 26th May 2016

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. This is an incredibly sensitive issue, which must be handled with extreme care. That is why I am disappointed that there was not more detail in the statement today. It raises more questions than it answers. We wish to see the Government act where they can, and as quickly as they can, to support and save the UK steel industry. As I have said on so many occasions in this House, we on the SNP Benches are keen to support steel communities represented across this House.

As the shadow Secretary of State said, we are concerned that the proposal could set a dangerous precedent that undermines workplace pensions and incentives to save in order to secure dignity in retirement. Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said this morning that the union was not “taking anything off the table”, but that it was important “that any change in the law to save steelworkers’ pensions would not have an adverse impact on other pension schemes.” Mark Turner of Unite made similar comments this morning. That is why the SNP believes that it would be highly inappropriate for the UK Government to push the proposal through without further careful consideration.

In that vein, what discussions has the Minister had with the unions and others in the industry? How will the scheme work? How will pensioners currently in the scheme be affected? Will there be a disadvantage for future scheme members? Will he commit to set aside more time in this House so that all the issues can be teased out and discussed in a timeous fashion to support the industry and to ensure there are no wider unintended consequences?