I beg to move,
That this House
has considered progress on 2015 steel summit commitments.
It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I am pleased to have secured this debate, which comes almost three years on from the 2015 steel summit. At that summit, in the midst of the steel crisis, steel producers, steelworkers, trade unions and parliamentarians came together with Government to discuss the challenges facing the industry and the support needed to at least level the playing field. We were not looking for special favours or advantages, just a fair environment so that British steel makers were not fighting against state-subsidised steel from east Asia or excessive energy costs compared with our competitors in Europe.
My constituents in Redcar felt the sharp end of that battle when the SSI steelworks and coke ovens were closed. Cheap Chinese steel had put the works under strain from falling prices, but it was Government inaction, in the face of pleas from parliamentarians, industry and the Community trade union, that left the works in a battle for survival. The closure wiped out 3,000 jobs and many more in the supply chain, rippling across our local economy.
Redcar is resilient and we are fighting back, but many families continue to struggle, working on lower wages in insecure jobs, working away or not working at all. Many come to my surgeries or visit the local citizens advice bureau, struggling with mortgages and personal debt. I do not repeat that story to dwell on the past, but to highlight why it is so important that the steel industry gets the support it needs to thrive. We cannot countenance any more reductions in steelmaking capacity in the UK after the loss of 175 years of steelmaking on Teesside. We cannot be complacent, as before, about the loss of any more steel jobs.
To return to the 2015 summit, there was a united request in the form of five asks, or five areas where the industry was struggling to remain sustainable, often because we were at a disadvantage compared with our competitors around the world. We were playing fair, but the playing field was tilted against us. I am speaking in the past tense, but sadly not enough progress has been made on those asks since 2015. The playing field is still uneven and tilted against British steel. While the existential urgency of the 2015 crisis may have passed, my town stands as a warning of what can happen if complacency sets in and the industry is not given the support it needs to survive.