It’s been another week dominated by concern about the future of our steel industry with the announcement by Tata that it intends to divest itself of all its UK steel business. With calls being now made for Sajid Javid, the Tory Business Minister, to resign John McDonnell, the Labour shadow chancellor, said it was “shocking” that the Minister knew about the Tata board meeting but failed to understand the seriousness of the situation putting around 40,000 jobs and entire communities at risk. It underlines the incompetence of the Conservative Government and their failure to support our steel industry.
Since 2011 steel MPs like myself, alongside UK steel and the trade unions have been arguing for urgent Government action to level the playing field for UK steel. We’ve argued for action on energy costs, business rates, procurement and action on Chinese dumping. Instead of intervening on behalf of this core strategic industry the Conservatives have found every excuse for their inaction. Their “Not Me” Government means it’s always someone else’s fault – steelmakers, the unions, the EU, the last Labour government!!!
The reality, however, is quite different from their rhetoric.
The reality is that they could have acted much faster to mitigate the impact of their unilateral carbon floor tax on the steel industry. It’s taken them over three years to deliver their promise to act!!
The reality is that they could have done something ages ago about levelling the playing field on business rates. But even as recently as Osborne’s latest omnishambles budget there was no action taken to support the steel industry.
The reality is that on procurement they’ve been slow to deliver, only recently coming up with better procurement guidelines. And the proof of their effectiveness will be measured by whether companies like Dong use UK steel in their windfarms or not.
And on Chinese dumping the UK government has been stopping the EU Commission from taking the tougher action it wants to. So, as the future of UK steel lies in the balance, we get hand wringing from the UK Tories when what’s needed is precise, targeted intervention. While the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has made it clear we stand on the side of steelworkers senior Conservatives have been nowhere to be seen!
Here in Scunthorpe the original deadline for the transfer of ownership of Long Products from Tata to Greybull Capital has passed but there is a confidence that it will be completed in the next few weeks. At the Tata Task Force meeting we were updated on progress.
I had a very useful visit to BOC – a key supplier to the Tata works. I was also impressed with the investment in developing green energy fuels I saw by Vivergo at Saltend. These are just two more of the sort of manufacturing businesses that contribute so much to our area. And these are the sort of businesses that provide the quality jobs that drive our local economy.
There are many smaller successful businesses like Hornsby’s who contribute too. I was delighted to spend a morning travelling around with Hornsby’s bus passengers. It was great to see the world from their point of view and see the brilliant rapport drivers had with customers.
Finally I visited Scunthorpe Sea Cadets to see the excellent work they are doing. It was good to see young cadets learning their knots and to chat to another group about what they get out of the cadets. Wonderful!