UK Steel Industry

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:30 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Labour/Co-operative, Redcar 5:30 pm, 9th July 2019

As always, Mr Hollobone, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I congratulate my hon. Friend Nic Dakin not only on securing this debate but on the last few months, when he has been such a doughty champion for his constituents and for the steel industry in this country. We are very proud of him and I know that his hard work is going to pay off.

Of course, we know why we are here today participating in this debate, which is extremely timely and important because, yet again, here we are in another steel crisis, while steelworkers sit at home, hoping and praying that they have a future and a job and a salary to continue to provide for their families. Yet again they are in a precarious situation.

To be honest, it is depressing that we are here again, because a year ago tomorrow we had a debate in Westminster Hall, this exact same Chamber, which was three years on from the 2015 steel summit and all the promises that were made then, and all the asks that we made of Government. And here we are yet again, despite having seen the devastation that my constituents bore the brunt of. We can see what happens when we fail on steel.

My constituency is still struggling. I am here today, not just to fight on behalf of the 700 British Steel workers in my constituency today but because of what happened to us three and a half years ago in Redcar. We lost 2,200 jobs immediately in SSI and another 900 in the supply chain. I always say to people, “Imagine that in London, Manchester, or Birmingham. It would be devastating. Then put that in a seaside town, or a town like Scunthorpe, and imagine the effect of that on an economy, on a society, on a community, on families and on individuals.”

We are still not recovering; we are still not there. We know the average salary of those who worked in the steelworks; we know they are good jobs. They were the highest paid jobs in my constituency. The average salary is down by £10,000 a year. Many workers have had to move away to find other employment. Some are working in British Steel on Teesside or have even gone to Scunthorpe, where yet again they find themselves back in this precarious situation.

A month ago, I met a worker who had had 13 different jobs since he lost his job at the steelworks. That is the kind of insecurity and economic disaster that happens if the Government do not step in and stand by our steel industry, and that is before we even get on to talking about the reclaiming of the site, which stands there corroding and rusting. It will cost millions to get that ready for other businesses to come in, clean it up and bring jobs. I just raise that with the Minister to say that this is what happens—this is the cost of failure.

I pay tribute to the Secretary of State, who I am sure cannot be with us today because he is probably—hopefully—travelling the world and trying to secure a deal for British Steel. I pay tribute to him, because I think he gets that. He understands and, to be fair, things are different to what they were in 2015. The Government have stepped in; they have given the indemnity to the official receiver; they have bought us some time; and they have kept the workforce paid and the asset in place. So I pay tribute to him, but I have a few requests to make of him and of the Minister who is here in his absence today.

Obviously, we know that the official receiver is bound by his legal obligations. However, I will echo the sentiments that were expressed earlier today about keeping the business together. It is vital that the Government support bidders who bid for the whole business—no more cherry-picking and no more asset-strippers such as Greybull.

It is vital that we have the investment to deal with the environmental liabilities that are so important on the Redcar site, but the importance of innovation must not be forgotten either. We cannot beat China and others on price, but we can beat them on innovation, with lighter, stronger, greener steel. And I make a pledge again to—