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Steel Industry — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:17 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 3:17 pm, 11th May 2016

More than £115 million has already been awarded to subcontractors based in Scotland, and with an estimated 60 million subcontracts still to be advertised during the construction phase through the Public Contracts Scotland website, there is still plenty of opportunity for other UK-based companies to bid.

As Members will no doubt be aware, however, the celebration will be short-lived. The steel industry still faces some fairly hefty challenges, and it is up to us to continue piling pressure on the Government to ensure that the correct measures are taken, to safeguard the industry and protect jobs. It would be remiss of me not to recognise the measures that the Government have so far taken. Efforts have been made to help steel and other energy-intensive industries, for which we are all grateful. More undeniably remains to be done, and it is not only about taking action. It is about a shift in the Government’s thinking. In Scotland, the approach is to view steel as a vital strategic asset. The Scottish Government have outlined their vision for the industry and, in doing so, their commitment to it. As resilient as our centuries-old steel industry has been, it will survive only with the proper support. That means taking steps to address the unfair playing field of the global market. The industry wants the anti-dumping investigation process to be hastened—it is much more rapid in the United States than in the EU. I would like the UK Government to take UK Steel’s recommendation on board and, through the European Council, work with the Commission to set out a clear action plan and timetable for changes to speed up the process.

Action must also be taken on the lesser duty rule. We are clearly at an impasse between what industry has been calling for and what the Government are prepared to do. UK Steel has made pragmatic suggestions of ways to change how tariffs are calculated without necessarily scrapping the rule. I would like the Government to engage with it to find a steel sector solution that will ensure that future duties are robust enough to tackle unfair imports.

As I have mentioned many times, we continue to head towards market economy status for China, without properly addressing the dumping issue. The industry has issued grave warnings that that could lead to serious job losses across many sectors, and I would like a proper response from the Minister about how China can be given market economy status while the effectiveness of the EU’s trade defence instruments is preserved. I would also like to know more about what further action has been taken on energy costs. We are at a disadvantage compared with other European countries, and I should like a full and frank response on how wholesale costs are to be brought down.