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Steel Industry — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 2:30 pm, 11th May 2016

First, I would like to congratulate and welcome my new hon. Friend Chris Elmore and say how privileged and happy I am to have him intervene during my speech. I believe that this is the first time he has spoken in the House, so I am very honoured that he has taken this opportunity, but I am even more impressed by the fact that he has got straight into the job and is representing his constituents in a very steadfast way.

The US Government are in the process of introducing new laws that will enable the US to take even tougher action against Chinese dumping and which will make Europe an even more attractive target for dumping. However, there is hope, as it has become widely recognised in Europe that the lesser duty rule is killing our industry. The European Commission has proposed that it should be scrapped, and that has been supported by the European Parliament. The European Commission is demonstrating the very reform and flexibility that the Prime Minister kept banging on about wanting to see in the European Union, so why will he and his Government not support the European Commission in that action?

I would be very happy if the Minister responded to that question, because that is the type of reform we want. When the facts and the market change, the mechanisms need to change. In my opinion, the reason why the lesser duty tariff has lasted so long is that the level of dumping was previously nowhere near the levels it has been at in the last four years. When the facts change, our trade defence mechanisms need to change in order to support our industry, yet even now the UK Government continue to lead the charge among the small group of nations blocking the scrapping of the lesser duty rule. Our own Government are arguing that end users of steel need access to cheap Chinese product.

Despite all the rhetoric, the UK Government are failing to stand up for our steel industry. They say they have delivered on four of the five industry asks, including

“backing EU-level action on anti-dumping measures”,

but the Government’s opposition to scrapping the lesser duty rule exposes the enormous gap between rhetoric and reality. Furthermore, on 5 February, the Secretary of State signed a heavily publicised letter to the Commission calling for Europe to

“use every means available and take strong action” on Chinese dumping. That letter is simply not consistent with the Government’s position on the lesser duty rule.

Even more importantly over the coming weeks, the EU will make decisions that will impact on the granting of market economy status to China. It has become increasingly clear that Chinese dumping poses an existential threat to the UK and European steel industry. Despite that, the UK Government continue to act as a cheerleader for China in Europe in its bid for MES, whether we remain in the European Union or not. Market economy status for China would be a complete disaster, as it would make it even harder for European producers to gain protection from unfairly traded Chinese imports. That issue is becoming more urgent, as the Commission must take a decision on it by December of this year, and the European Parliament votes on it tomorrow. I do not know, but I have heard that Tory MEPs are being whipped to vote that through. That has serious implications yet again, in terms of what the Government say and what the Government are prepared to do.