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Steel Industry — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:34 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby 3:34 pm, 11th May 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. I will address the two key issues of business rates and dumping—I raised the latter earlier at Prime Minister’s questions. Clearly, firmer action needs to be taken on both issues. Very little progress has been made on business rates. The opening remarks of Tom Blenkinsop were relevant, and the Government should consider exempting the steel industry from those charges.

The point I made at Prime Minister’s questions related to dumping, which is key to this debate. I had a good meeting yesterday with the Industrial Communities Alliance, which raised its concerns in the strongest possible terms. Clearly, when we look around the world, other countries are taking robust action on Chinese dumping. The Obama Administration, with which I disagree on a lot of issues, has taken strong action, and rightly so. We have seen duties of 288% imposed. What consideration have the Government given to such steps as part of the international comparison group? That group has met, and we should learn lessons from around the world where we can.

I am also aware that the lesser duty rule will be discussed at the June European Council meeting, so it would be interesting to know whether the Government have any scope to review their position in advance. The key debate in Corby at the moment, however, is on the future of the Corby Tata site. People are rightly worried about what the future holds, and it is encouraging that considerable interest is being shown in obtaining the portfolio, but it must be the right deal. Confidence will be key to that. Ministers have been right to talk about the importance of confidence for buyers and suppliers. We need more of that confidence, and we need more of that work. We need the Government to wade in and make the case.

Long term, the future of the industry will depend on strong action on dumping and more work on the other asks. In particular, bringing forward the energy exemption package might help. I am grateful to the Minister for coming along with me to the Tata site in Corby a few weeks ago. We met the excellent Labour leader of the council, who has been very good on this issue, on which we work closely—it is important that we put party differences to one side and work together. The message was clear: the industry, and the Corby site in particular, needs time and investment. We have a strong plan in place, and we need the opportunity to see it through. Anything the Minister can do to help us achieve that would be hugely appreciated by me and my constituents.