Clause 73 - Transitioned trade remedies: decisions by Secretary of State

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 5 January 2022.

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Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury) 4:45, 5 January 2022

This important clause relates to trade remedies. As we have heard, it allows Ministers to override the powers of the Trade Remedies Authority in order to maintain safeguard tariffs on cheap imports that unfairly undermine UK industry.

The clause’s introduction was prompted by the row over the TRA’s proposals to get rid of tariffs on cheap steel imports. In June last year, the TRA recommended the removal of limits inherited from the EU on about half of the UK’s steel imports. Slashing those safeguards and opening the floodgates to cheap steel imports would have been devastating for steel plants across our country and damaging for our wider economy. At the time, the director general of UK Steel said:

“On their first major test in a post-Brexit trading environment, the UK’s new system has failed our domestic steel sector.”

The Government U-turned on that decision after pressure from Labour and the industry, and belatedly maintained protections for the steel industry. Obviously, however, there are concerns about future TRA decisions, so we support the clause. Indeed, Labour campaigned for the Government to take more action to support our vital steel industry.

I ask the Minister to expand on subsection (5), which allows the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding how to make decisions on transitioned trade remedies. Will she set out what sort of regulations she envisages that the Secretary of State will make and how those decisions will be made? It is important that there is a transparent process for making these important decisions on trade remedies.

Finally, although we welcome this measure and hope that it ensures that vital British industries are better protected in the future, we remain concerned about the Government’s wider failure to support British industry. Industries such as steel are of vital strategic importance for our economic prosperity and national security, but the Government’s lack of an industrial strategy means that the steel industry is lurching from crisis to crisis. We need a proper plan to decarbonise the sector, to boost business competitiveness and to use British steel in UK infrastructure projects, in order to safeguard the future of the steel industry, as Labour’s plans to buy, make and sell in Britain would do.

Labour would also invest up to £3 billion over the coming decade in greening the steel industry. We would work with steelmakers to secure a proud future for the industry to match the proud past and present of British steel communities. I urge the Government to do the same.