Steelmaking

Wales – in the House of Commons at on 31 January 2024.

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Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the future of the steelmaking industry in Wales.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the future of the steelmaking industry in Wales.

Photo of David Davies David Davies The Secretary of State for Wales

The Government are investing £500 million to secure the future of steelmaking in Port Talbot for generations to come. It is one of the largest UK Government support packages for steelmaking in history, and it will protect 5,000 jobs directly with Tata and many thousands more in the supply chain.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

Last week, the Secretary of State stated in the steel debate that he understands

“the devastation that people will feel in Port Talbot—the whole community, but especially those people who face the loss of their jobs”—[Official Report, 23 January 2024;
Vol. 744, c. 264.]

at the plant and beyond. Why is it, then, that the Secretary of State or the Business Secretary did not put in a red line on job losses while this work was being done, especially given that Tata has this morning doubled down on those losses at the Welsh Affairs Committee? It is nothing short of a disgrace.

Photo of David Davies David Davies The Secretary of State for Wales

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Tata approached the UK Government and said it was intending to pull out of the United Kingdom. If Tata had pulled out completely, that would have immediately cost 8,000 jobs and many thousands more in the supply chain. The Government therefore acted to take the only deal available, which was to build the electric arc furnace and save thousands of jobs.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I do not think that thousands of jobs will be saved at all. The people of Teesside, who saw the Tory Government abandon them and end virgin steelmaking at Redcar, leading to the loss of 3,000 jobs, will sympathise with those in Wales. The failure of the same Government will see virgin steelmaking also ended in Wales, with the loss of another 3,000 jobs, and leave the UK even more reliant on imports, as they are surrendering the market to other countries. Why would the Government want to do that when steel is a foundation industry and, with the introduction of new technologies, could have a bright future?

Photo of David Davies David Davies The Secretary of State for Wales

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that 100% of the materials—the iron ore and coke—used to produce steel in Port Talbot are imported from abroad. At the same time, we are exporting 8 million tonnes of scrap steel, so building an arc furnace to make use of that scrap steel will make us less dependent on other countries for our steel.

As far as job losses are concerned, the UK Government have put aside a budget of £80 million, combined with £20 million from Tata, to support anyone who loses their job. Thus far, we have not had one single penny towards that from the Welsh Labour Government—who, by the way, are able to find £100 million to create a whole load of extra Senedd members in Cardiff Bay. I know where my priorities are: with the steelworkers.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Conservative, Heywood and Middleton

Steelmaking is essential to our national security, as is reaching net zero. The problem is that the Welsh Labour Government cannot make their mind up about which is more important. After trying to kill off the steel industry with their green measures, they now complain that the UK Government are not doing enough to support that industry. Does the Secretary of State think that they do not really know their ACAS from their NALGO?

Photo of David Davies David Davies The Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Government have looked carefully at this, and very little steel being produced by Port Talbot is going into the defence industry, but the defence industry is being supplied with steel from an electric arc furnace by Sheffield Forgemasters. There is absolutely no reason why an electric arc furnace built at Port Talbot, using UK Government support, cannot help support our defence industry in the years to come.