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Procurement: UK-produced Steel

Volume 602: debated on Monday 23 November 2015

4. What his policy is on ensuring the use of UK-produced steel in items procured by his Department. (902260)

10. What his policy is on ensuring the use of UK-produced steel in items procured by his Department. (902266)

Steel is sourced by our contractors from a range of UK and international suppliers, reflecting the need to ensure a competitive price and delivery at the required time and quality. UK suppliers have provided significant quantities of steel for major defence equipment procurement programmes, whenever they have been able to meet specified standards. Our new Government guidelines, published last month, will help UK steel suppliers to compete effectively with international suppliers for major projects, including those in defence.

The Minister will be aware that Swedish steel was used in the construction of offshore patrol craft and also in Scout armoured vehicles. Many in the steel community feel that that is a betrayal. Does he, like me, feel that British-produced steel should be specified in defence procurement contracts in order to protect steel, a strategically important industry?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the steel that is specified needs to be the steel that can do the job. We are open-minded about who can supply that, but we are adopting the new Government guidelines. For the offshore patrol vessels, some 20% of the requirement—about 775 tonnes—was sourced through UK steel mills.

Public procurement policies should seek to assist British industry, especially steel. It is clear that other countries support their own industries in that way. Why not Britain?

That is why the Government have set up the steel procurement working group, chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office. The Ministry of Defence is sitting on that group. We are seeking to ensure that future orders are open to UK firms to tender.

You can bet your bottom dollar, Mr Speaker—or rather, your bottom euro—that European countries will not be abiding by European Union law as far as procurement is concerned. Can my hon. Friend confirm—I am sure he can—that we will do all we can to procure British steel, providing it is of the right quality?

No one who has listened to the Minister’s answers today would have any confidence that he was going to take any serious steps to ensure that British steel was used in the purchase of the line of Type 26 frigates, which we expect to hear about shortly. Can he say a little more about what serious steps he will take, to justify the answer he has just given to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant)? Let us support the British steel industry through this very important Government contract.

The hon. Gentleman is right to point to the Type 26 procurement programme as the next major platform where there will be a significant steel component. We are determined, as a Government who are keen to support our steel industry, that defence contractors will have the opportunity to source that steel from the UK, and we will do as much as we can to help them in that endeavour.