Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have our urgent attention, namely that the House has considered Tata Steel’s decision to sell its UK operations, and any action that the Government are taking to secure the future of the British steel industry.
On 29 March, Tata announced that it would sell its entire British strip product business on a tight timetable. The future of the UK steel industry is now hanging by a thread. If a suitable buyer is not found, there will be enormous repercussions. Forty thousand jobs are at stake at Tata and in the supply chain, and steel communities up and down the country face a deeply worrying and uncertain future.
Steel is a foundation industry and essential for the UK’s manufacturing base. Aerospace, automotive, defence, construction, rail and nuclear all depend on steel. The crisis is also an existential threat to our already struggling manufacturing sector. Output remains 6.4% lower than in 2008. The cost of failing to act would be an additional £4.6 billion over 10 years and lost household spending would be £3 billion. The UK’s current account deficit, already standing at a record high of over £30 billion, would widen even further. Without our own industry, we would be dangerously reliant on overseas producers and vulnerable to future price hikes. As well as the economic cost, there would be a wholly avoidable human cost, too, with the devastation of entire communities and the life chances of those who rely on the industry.
The steel industry is cyclical. It can be preserved and can have a strong, sustainable future, but only if the right decisions are taken now. This is an urgent matter and one of grave concern to the House, to the workers facing an uncertain future, to their communities, to the manufacturing sector and to the country at large. As Tata’s announcement came during the recess, there has not yet been the chance to debate this important matter, not least because the Government refused to recall Parliament despite a petition signed by 152,000 people asking them to do so. While I welcomed the Secretary of State’s statement earlier today, a fuller urgent debate is essential to allow Members not only to pose questions, but to scrutinise the Government’s plans in more detail. Given the potentially devastating impact on steel-making communities up and down the country and the urgency of the situation, I beg your leave to seek this emergency debate.
The hon. Lady has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 12 April, as the first item of public business. The debate will last for up to three hours and will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the application. I hope that that is helpful.
Now, I indicated to eager and expectant Members that their moment would arrive if they were patient, and they have been and it has done.