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Steel Industry

Volume 737: debated on Thursday 14 September 2023

I am in constant conversations with specific companies to do with steel, including British Steel in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but of course those conversations are often commercially sensitive. I was delighted to speak at the event she hosted in Parliament to celebrate the launch of the Government’s updated steel procurement policy note, which will help to make opportunities more visible and maintain a level playing field for UK steel producers. In the financial year 2021-22, relevant public procurers bought around £365 million-worth of UK produced steel. Furthermore, the Government have provided around £730 million in energy costs relief to the sector since 2013.

Can my hon. Friend set out specifically what is being done to ensure the continued production of virgin steel in the UK?

Steel is vital to the UK, but we know that the industry needs to decarbonise for a sustainable future. The Paris agreement made it clear that the sector had to reduce its global emissions by 93% by 2050. The Government are actively engaging with the sector on how best to achieve that, but decarbonisation pathways for specific sites will be commercial decisions for individual companies. Industrial sectors, including steel companies, can bid into Government funds worth hundreds of millions of pounds to help them go green. As I mentioned, we have done a huge amount to support energy intensive industries.

The UK is the only major steel-producing nation where production is falling, but the Minister and her colleagues have been telling us for months that they cannot guarantee the use of UK-made steel in Government contracts, especially in the military. The thing is that the steel producers say that they can make whatever their customer asks by changing the production line. Will the Minister confirm that the reason we have a problem with steel in this country is the Government’s refusal to view it as a strategically important industry? The Conservatives’ sticking-plaster politics have failed steelworkers, as we have seen at Port Talbot.

I fundamentally disagree with the question—well, it was more of a statement. I made it clear when I took on this role that we would assess the level of steel in procurement contracts, and we have put together the steel procurement policy note, which will address how much steel is being procured in our contracts in the UK. We are doing a huge amount to ensure that the different types of steel that are needed are produced. We know how valuable the sector is, which is why we provided support with high energy costs and why we have a decarbonisation budget that the industry can link into. I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s proposition.

In Wales, it is reported that this Government will spend half a billion pounds to make thousands of Port Talbot steelworkers redundant. Head north to Derby to a train assembly plant, where thousands more jobs are under threat because this Government bungled High Speed 2. Head around the UK coastline and the Government have managed to misjudge industry so much that they secured zero offshore wind contracts. That is a UK tour of almighty Conservative incompetence. Labour will harness this country’s talent. Will the Minister explain how many jobs the Government are losing us at Tata Steel, how many jobs they are losing us in Derby, how many jobs they are losing us in offshore wind, and why they are so intent on levelling down our great British industries?

I welcome the hon. Member to her post, but I suggest that leading on stories in the paper is not a good way forward. That is all speculation; we do not comment on commercial decisions. The reality is that there is £730 million in support with energy costs and more than £1 billion of support with decarbonisation. She talks about plans. Well, I am not sure if the Labour party’s plan stands for anything because it flip-flops so often. It is not just me who says that; let us reflect on a statement made by a union leader. They said that Labour was not only just an ’80s tribute act, but that it tends to sit on a “wobbly fence”. Who knows what Labour will say tomorrow after a statement made today?