It goes without saying that the UK steel industry is critical to our manufacturing base and that protecting the industry should be of paramount importance to the Government. The industry provides over 30,000 highly skilled, well-paid jobs in the UK, and British Steel directly employs around 4,500 in Scunthorpe, with a further 20,000 down the supply chain. Does the Minister agree the Government should be doing everything in their power to prevent British Steel from entering administration?
It is reported that British Steel had initially asked the Government for a £75 million loan in emergency financial support and subsequently reduced that request to around £30 million following negotiations with the Department. Will the Minister outline the asks of British Steel throughout the negotiations? Have the discussions included just financial support or a wider package of measures to support the site in Scunthorpe and the steel industry more widely?
Will the Minister confirm the status of the negotiations and why they are reported to have stalled in recent days? It has been reported that one of the reasons was the Department’s frustration with Greybull Capital’s apparent unwillingness to put money on the table. Will the Minister confirm whether that is the case? What impact did the company’s decision to acquire Ascoval last week have on the negotiations? If no deal can be reached with Greybull, have the Government considered any other options, such as bringing British Steel into public ownership?
Finally, the steel sector is facing myriad issues, from the value of sterling and the uncertainty around future trading with the EU through to US trade tariffs, and the Government could have taken steps to address them, such as greater procurement of UK steel, agreeing a sector deal, as the industry was requesting, and taking action on energy prices. Does the Minister accept that this Government have simply failed to take the steps necessary to ensure that UK steel remains competitive?