British Steel - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 21st May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 3:30 pm, 21st May 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Answer given in the other place, although it was curious because it did not seem to address any of the points that could bear on the Question which the Secretary of State was asked.

British Steel is our second biggest steel maker and one of only two integrated steel-making sites in the UK. As the only UK steel plant which produces rails used in our tracks, it provides almost all those procured by Network Rail, as well as supplying ScotRail, TfL and Translink in Northern Ireland. It also exports a large volume of products across Europe. Given these facts, your Lordships might well have expected the department to have a very detailed knowledge of the workings of British Steel, which I assume is at the heart of our industrial strategy. For instance, as we heard only last week, and in the Statement, it put £120 million into the company as part of the ETS bailout. Is that money now at risk? Are we to believe that if the company goes into administration tomorrow—as it may do—the money will not actually come back to taxpayers, as was stated? Did the Minister agree with the company’s acquisition of a company based in France, for £42 million, only last week? These things do not suggest a company in trouble, yet we hear today that it needs between £30 million and £75 million to survive.

In order to get some answers, I will ask some specific questions. How much is the company actually asking for? Press reports today range between £30 million and £75 million. What is the figure? What is the current status of the negotiations? There are rumours circulating in the press that the discussions have stalled. Have they? If the company does go into administration tomorrow, what plans do the Government have to support the 4,000 or so people employed directly and the 20,000 or so in the supply chain?