Tata Steelworks: Newport

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee) 4:00 pm, 8th October 2019

My hon. Friend is exactly right. It is a very important and well-thought-out plan, and I hope Ministers are listening to it. The 2018 memorandum of understanding agreed with Tata in advance of the failed joint venture contained a commitment to reinvest the proceeds of the sale of any UK-owned assets back into the UK. Tata should honour the spirit of that agreement. That would leave a shortfall of just £30 million, and we could look to central and devolved Government to contribute to the new strategy. Given the role that Orb can play as a strategic business of the future, enabling the Government to deliver on their climate commitments, there is a compelling case for Government support.

The strategy advocated by Syndex includes three key aspects: a new annealing line at Orb, investment in automation to make Orb’s grain-oriented products more competitive, and relocation of the hot rolled coil supply chain from IJmuiden to Port Talbot.

I want to put forward a series of asks to the Government. First, will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to call a UK steel council urgently, with Orb at the top of the agenda? We have not had one since June 2018, and the need is urgent. Will Ministers commit to meet urgently with trade unions and local politicians to look at what can be done to support Orb and its workers at this time? Community has requested meetings with the Welsh and UK Governments to present the Syndex plan directly to them. Will the Minister and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy agree to meet it?

The Prime Minister committed last month to ensure that UK steel forms part of the supply chain for electric vehicles. Will Ministers ensure that that actually happens? While I am on that subject, we now more than ever need a sector deal for steel—something we have been asking for for a long time.

This Saturday, hon. Members will be joining Community, Unite and other unions in a march through Newport to save Orb steel. We are fighting for it, and I hope everyone will join us. Orb is a site that could be underpinning a dynamic UK automotive industry, and could be at the cutting edge of new steel technologies. Newport, Wales and the UK would be worse off if the Government fail to work with Tata to grasp its enormous potential before it is too late. If the Government are serious about an industrial strategy, will they back up their words with proactive action?

I am calling on the Government to prioritise our industrial policy and to support our steel industry, including electrical steels, and building an electric vehicle industry. The Prime Minister says he wants to do that. I say yes, and so do the Welsh Government. Who else needs to say yes to save the Orb plan? I ask Tata to say yes too. Together, let us save Orb and build a new electrical steel economy in the UK.