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It is an absolute joy and pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mrs Moon. As ever, it has been a very good debate. I nearly said that we have had the full set that we always have in a debate on steel, but we are missing from the Public Gallery the excellent Mr Roy Rickhuss, who leads the outstanding Community union. I am sure he will be following these events and reading about them in Hansard.
As ever, I pay tribute to Tom Blenkinsop for securing this debate. I also pay tribute to all those who work in our steel industry—management and workers—and to all those, including the unions, who have been playing such an outstanding role in this incredibly difficult past 12 months. I make it very clear that I want to make a complaint about the hon. Gentleman, because I think he had a quick look at my speech. I thought it was brilliant that he opened on that very positive note. I wanted to do that in my speech.
Unusually for me, I will read certain things out, including quite a few facts and figures, because I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no disagreement among us on this: we all believe that steel genuinely has a future in the United Kingdom. There is no debate either about the quality of the steel we make here and the outstanding quality of the workforce.
We know that it is important—“vital”, in the words of the Prime Minister—that we have a strong British steel sector. In economic terms, steel was worth some £1.7 billion in 2014, representing 0.1% of the total UK economy. At that time—sadly, it is not the case now—it employed 34,500 people. As so many Members on both sides of the House know, the steel industry is a critical, integral part of many places and communities. The Government are clear that the steel industry has a viable long-term future in the United Kingdom, and that is why we have taken unprecedented action.
I have to chide Opposition Members. My hon. Friend Tom Pursglove praised his local Labour leader because he does not care what party they represent; they are working together and fighting in the right way in the interests of everyone at Corby. I am sometimes a little saddened that Opposition Members never give some credit for the outstanding work that this Government have done in relation to the future of the steel industry.