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Steel Industry — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:07 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 3:07 pm, 11th May 2016

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I commend my hon. Friend Tom Blenkinsop, who, as always, is bang on the money regarding the British steel industry. He brings his incredible experience and insight to the debate and I am proud to sit alongside him on these Benches.

I welcome the positive news about the number of potential buyers for Tata sites. The people of Teesside will be pleased to hear that positive news for steel communities around the UK. As my hon. Friend said, that is testament to the fact that the argument is, at last, being won. Steel is not a sunset industry and has a vital long-term role in the future of British manufacturing. It is also a positive statement that Britain can be a global leader in steel with the right support and, as other hon. Members have said, a serious industrial strategy from the Government. I am glad that the Government seem to have learnt their lesson, albeit at a terrible cost to us on Teesside.

I have spoken before about the anger still felt in Redcar that nothing was done to save our steel making from closure. We have never had answers to the questions I posed in the previous debate on the topic, when I asked why European state aid rules were a barrier to co-investing with Sahaviriya Steel Industries but are not for the companies now coming forward for the Tata sites, and why the private sector options that we put before the Minister—which would have kept the coke ovens going and mothballed the blast furnace, rather than losing our national assets for good—were not taken up. I also asked why the Government said that they could not put British taxpayers’ money into Thai banks. Why are they any different from the investors coming forward now? There is still a justified sense of anger on Teesside when people see the Government pulling out all the stops now, and feel that nothing was done for us, but I do not want to keep looking back. We must rebuild and get back on our feet, and we are doing that.

I start, as my hon. Friend did, by congratulating everyone at Middlesbrough football club—the chairman, Steve Gibson, the manager, Aitor Karanka, all the players, the staff and, of course, the fans—for a well-deserved promotion to the premier league. We are back where we belong as a premier league club in a premier league town. We now have to build on this opportunity for our global brand to show the world once again that Teesside is a great place to live, work, play and invest. Just as steel was the driving force of our former industrial might, so it can still play a vital role in our future regeneration.

I welcome the fact that the shadow board for the South Tees development corporation met for the first time yesterday. It is a strong board with a great deal of local experience and expertise, and I look forward to working with the development corporation on the future of the SSI site. That site can play a major role in job creation and the economic regeneration of the area.

I want to briefly set out two key areas where I think steel can play a key role in driving the regeneration of Teesside. The first is in relation to steel and the circular economy. While we may never be able to forge steel again without our blast furnace, there is a great opportunity on Teesside to lead the way in metal remanufacturing, refurbishment and recycling. The second area is in research and development. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, I urge the Minister to give a high priority to the benefit of the materials Catapult on Teesside at the Materials Processing Institute. The MPI pilot-scale electric arc furnace in Redcar is the only example of its kind in the UK and offers innovation, process development and future opportunities in the adoption of electric arc furnace technology.