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Steel Industry

Volume 615: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2016

I am in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the First Minister and the Welsh Minister for the Economy. We have not lost focus while these issues have been out of the headlines. The Government leave no stone unturned in supporting the steel sector.

What assurances can the Secretary of State give that, in the event of the completion of a joint venture by Tata Strip Products and ThyssenKrupp, commitments will be made on jobs, investment and the continuation of primary steel making at Port Talbot and across Wales?

It is in the UK’s strategic interests to maintain a steel-making capacity, and so quite obviously to maintain that at Port Talbot. The Government stand ready and waiting to support any bidder. It is a matter for Tata as to whether it pursues the joint venture. We are maintaining a relationship with Tata and other potential bidders that were in discussions earlier this year. We are keen to maintain a sustainable future.

Welsh steel is obviously of the highest quality, and I hope that when Heathrow airport is expanded Welsh steel will be used. In that sense, will the Secretary of State have a word with the Prime Minister to ensure that she stops faffing around on Heathrow expansion and that we have a positive decision as early as possible?

The hon. Gentleman tempts me, but he knows that that decision will be coming soon. He makes an important point about the use of steel in infrastructure projects. The UK Government have already changed procurement rules, making it easier for British steel to be used in contracts. For example, Crossrail, Europe’s largest civil engineering scheme, uses almost entirely British steel.

Order. The hon. Gentleman has a very personal constituency reason for wishing to acknowledge the anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy. Let us hear him with the courtesy he warrants.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. As the representative for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, I too would like to associate myself with the comments of the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), in relation to the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster, an unimaginable loss for the families and, indeed, the whole community.

One major challenge—if not the major challenge—facing the Welsh steel industry is that its energy costs are far higher than those of our competitors. Despite warm words, little action has been taken. What action is the Secretary of State or the Government taking to bring down energy costs faced by energy-intensive industries?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State to their positions. He makes an important point on steel-making capacity and energy costs. He will be well aware that the energy-intensive industry package the Government have brought forward responded to the demands from the industry and from Tata specifically. We have reduced energy costs to the steel sector by £109 million, which has been welcomed and has put the sector in a much stronger position, with a turnaround in finance from a loss of £64 million to an operating profit of £95 million.