Whitsun Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:50 pm on 23rd May 2019.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:50 pm, 23rd May 2019

And memorials to people who have helped to build this country; and memorials that include women as well as men. Most memorials to women in this country are actually to Queen Victoria, but the memorial in Scunthorpe includes a female steelworker and a male steelworker, recognising that it is through men’s and women’s work across the ages that this country has been built.

Steelmaking is the beating heart of the community that I am proud to represent. It is what gives the community its character and strength. Everyone has friends or family members who work in the steel industry or its supply chains. It provides high-skilled, well-paid jobs that drive the local economy, and has always been passionate about and committed to apprenticeships, training and investment—investing in community causes and the community effort. The supply chain and the contractor base are also hugely important.

As my hon. Friend Ian Mearns said, this is not just an industry that is important to places around the country; it is an industry that is important to our country and it is part of our national asset. The strategic value of the steel industry is massive. It is a foundation industry that underpins our manufacturing and economic performance. If we are serious about being an independent and modern country, we need to have our own independent steelmaking capacity so that we have defence and infrastructure security, otherwise we are vulnerable to the whims and vicissitudes of others.

The strongest economies in the world have strong steel industries. Look at the countries with the strongest steel industries: No. 1—the USA; No. 2—China; No. 3 —Japan; No. 7—Germany. The UK currently comes in at No. 30. Do we want to drop further down the league table? No, we do not. If we are serious about punching above our weight and being a leader in the world, we cannot slip further down that league table. If we want to be a proud, modern, independent nation, we need to have our own independent steelworking capacity.

People care about steel, and we can see that in the response to the current crisis. Outside this House, there is a consensus that our steel industry is necessary for our future as a nation. Inside this House, we saw the solidarity expressed from all corners of the Chamber yesterday. I pay tribute to all colleagues in the House for speaking strongly with one voice about how important this industry is, and for saying that we need this industry for our national strength and national benefit. There was a chorus of support across the House for the Business Secretary in his commitment to find a positive outcome through the current set of challenges, and a willingness to explore, from all corners of the House, whatever future ownership models are necessary to secure our industry for the future. One voice, one message—to save our steel because we need it for our nation’s future.

Steel is one of the most productive industries, and its productivity has increased massively over the last 20 years. It is also a hugely sustainable industry. Steel is highly recyclable—one of the most recyclable products. We may be able to do more to ensure that we recycle all our steel and use the best of what we have got, but steel made in the UK reduces the carbon footprint of production, so it is a sustainable product. If we are forced to import our steel from outside the UK, that will affect our ability to reduce our carbon footprint. The upsurge in desire to do better on tackling climate change is another reason why we need our own independent steelmaking capacity. That is incontrovertible and irresistible.