UK Steel Industry

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:37 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation) 5:37 pm, 9th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank Nic Dakin for securing this important debate and for his outstanding work as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on steel and metal-related industries.

I came into this Parliament in 2015 and almost instantly got involved in steel because my constituency used to house Ravenscraig hot strip steel mill, and now houses the Dalzell works. We have had not our troubles to seek. What has been done in Scotland and in the rest of the UK has been different in the extreme. The hon. Member for Scunthorpe—I believe it was he—said that he was looking for another UK steel summit. I was involved in the first one and the one in Scotland. The one in Scotland started proceedings by saying, “We will save both mills”—there is also Clydebridge in the neighbouring constituency. That was the focus from the minute that the summit met. The steel taskforce worked tirelessly with that one aim in mind, and it succeeded by helping Liberty Steel to buy the mill from Tata, giving it as much work as possible, giving it compensation for electricity and a rates holiday, and doing all sorts of other practical tasks. It managed to do that within the EU rules. It has always been a huge puzzle to me why the UK Government cannot do what our EU competitors do, work within the EU rules and save steel in the UK. The industry should not be lightly disregarded.

Steelworkers are a special breed, as has been said. They have taken the decision time and time again across the UK to change their terms and conditions and rates of remuneration, and they have fought to save apprenticeships—all in the teeth of a Government who do not seem to care about what happens to anything other than the financial industry. No first-world country can run an economy without manufacturing, and steel is a foundation industry for any economy that wants to have manufacturing.

I feel passionately about this issue. I am not a native of Motherwell and Wishaw; I have only been there 32 years—I always say that. However, I know how passionately steel is intertwined with the very fabric of my constituency. It was a pleasure to be there recently when the Minister from the Scottish Government signed the UK steel charter. I was in a privileged position, because I was able to be at both signings, both here and in Scotland. That commitment by the Scottish Government needs to be matched by the UK Government, because there are things that are not within the competence of the Scottish Government. We have no influence on energy prices, dealing with steel tariffs or dealing with the President of the United States, so I ask the Minister to please take this issue seriously.

Many of us who take part in these debates are sick and tired of the same debates. It has been joked that we should just pull out the speeches we made before, rewind, and keep giving the same ones. There is a place for that, but we need this Government to make a commitment that we will not leave the EU with no deal and that we will save the UK steel industry in its entirety. We must save the jobs of people who have committed to the steel industry, and the unions that have worked tirelessly with management across that industry to make sure it is still here and will be here for the future and our children’s futures.