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Steel Import Tariffs

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 15 April 2021

What recent assessment her Department has made of the effect of steel import tariffs on the UK steel industry. (914099)

First, may I associate myself with the tributes on Monday led by you, Mr Speaker, and the Prime Minister on the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, and the Humble Address of the House of Commons to Her Majesty?

We are committed to defending British industry and jobs and will not hesitate to take firm action where necessary, which is why we have safeguard measures in place. We know there are concerns that Chinese steel is receiving state subsidies that distort trade, so, working with our allies, we will challenge China and other countries to play by the rules.

Motherwell in my constituency was once the heart of steel production in Scotland and the rest of the UK, but consecutive UK Governments have overseen the decline of steel jobs in Scotland from thousands to just over 100. Will the UK Government provide certainty for steelworkers today, support domestic production, protect those remaining jobs and retain the tariffs on steel imports?

When the Trade Remedies Authority is set up, it will conclude its investigation, which it would be wrong to pre-empt. We are of course working for every corner of our United Kingdom, backing British businesses and supporting Scottish jobs as much as we are supporting those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland—at a time when the Scottish National party wants to cut itself off from its largest market: the British internal market.

I am afraid the 5,000 workers at Liberty Steel will not have been reassured by the Minister’s answer. The collapse of Greensill Capital has created serious problems at Liberty Steel and is one of many reasons why the entire British steel industry now urgently needs leadership, stability and support from the Government. Can we get some clarity? Retaining the import tariffs is a political decision. Will the Minister play his part today by guaranteeing that the Government will retain the vital safeguard tariffs that Britain currently has in place against cheap steel imports for the full financial year ahead—no ifs, no buts and no maybes?

I do love the authenticity with which the hon. Gentleman asked his question; of course, if it were a political decision, he would be calling for it to be independent. It is an independent decision. The Trade Remedies Authority has teeth and will act accordingly. Just like this Government, our Trade Remedies Authority is going to defend the British national industry, back British jobs and support people throughout our United Kingdom.