It is truly a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank my hon. Friend Nic Dakin for securing this debate, again. It is truly dispiriting to be here again to call on the Government to act to safeguard the future of British steel production. It is a vital strategic industry, yet the Government’s record on steel is one of abject failure.
Time and again Members, many of them here today, have set out in clear terms what is required. Time and again, the Government have done nothing. They have failed to take action on high energy costs that have held the industry back against its worldwide and European competitors. They have failed to take action on business rates, which penalise investment and prevent the industry from shaping its own future. They have failed to commit to favouring British-produced steel in major state infrastructure projects such as HS2. Most damningly, they have failed to properly understand the industry, its importance and the unique challenges it faces. We find ourselves, once more, talking about thousands more workers with uncertain futures, and more communities that face having their hearts torn away.
It did not have to be like this. In Rotherham, Tata’s speciality steels division was taken over by Liberty House. While the collapse of British Steel has called into question the conduct and suitability of its owner Greybull Capital, Liberty has invested heavily in its Rotherham plant. Last year, I attended the refiring of a furnace that had been mothballed for two years. In Rotherham, steel is not losing jobs but recruiting for jobs. Yet it is reported that potential buyers of British Steel’s operations have been put off, not by the challenges common across the industry, but by our Government’s failure to commit to support investment and development in the sector.
The Government simply cannot continue to stand by and watch as the steel industry in Britain withers and dies. Promises are no longer enough. The Government must act now, in the national interest, to protect jobs in Scunthorpe and the north-east. They must do now what they should have done in 2016 and address the structural challenges that continue to place the wider industry in jeopardy.