MPs urge new Business Secretary to revive steel industry amid coronavirus fears

MPs have urged the Cabinet Minister to focus on the steel industry (Image: Getty Images Europe)

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Steel bosses, MPs and unions tonight urge the new Business Secretary to throw the industry as a lifeline as it battles a downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kwasi Kwarteng was promoted to the Cabinet last week after Alok Sharma quit to focus on hosting November's COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

Welsh Labour MPs who have Tata Steel plants in their constituencies have written to Mr Kwarteng to press home the need to revive the sector.

Their letter, seen by the Mirror, says: “Our steelworkers make the best steel that money can buy.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng

The steel industry is under ongoing pressure
(Image: Media Wales)

“But the reality is that for far too long they’ve been forced to compete with one hand tied behind their backs, because for the last 10 years the UK Government has failed to give our steel industry the support that it needs and deserves.”

The MPs – Stephen Kinnock, who represents Aberavon, which includes the Port Talbot steelworks and is secretary of Parliament's cross-party group on steel; Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith; Newport East's Jessica Morden and Alyn and Deeside's Mark Tami – tell Mr Kwarteng it is “time for the UK government to step up”.

They call on ministers to pump cash into research and development, use British steel in public contracts and give Tata a slice of cash from Project Birch – a scheme to help big, nationally-important firms through the coronavirus recession.

They add: “Steel is a strategic foundation industry that underpins our entire manufacturing sector.

Newport East Jessica Morden

Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith
(Image: Philip Coburn)

Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami

“It is the basis of the cars that we drive, the houses that we live in, and the offices that we work in.

“There can be no post-pandemic economic recovery without a strong and healthy steel industry, and with the end of the Brexit transition period the importance of home-grown UK steel sustaining and creating home-grown UK jobs has never been greater.

“Steel also has a crucial role to play in greening domestic manufacturing, providing climate-friendly jobs and driving down the UK’s carbon emissions.”

Mr Kinnock told the Mirror: “Steel is the backbone of our manufacturing sector.

Some 32,000 people work in the sector in Britain
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock, whose constituency includes Britain's biggest steelworks
(Image: PA)

“Kwasi Kwarteng's first act as the new Secretary of State must be to make it crystal clear that he understands the vital role that steel plays, and that there can be no post-Covid economic recovery without a strong and healthy British steel industry.”

Backing the call, Community steelworkers’ union general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “Britain needs its steel.

“Steel is part of our proud industrial heritage but most importantly it is vital to our economic future.

Community steelworkers' union general secretary Roy Rickhuss
(Image: PA)

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015

“If the Government is truly committed to reducing regional inequalities and retaining critical British industry, they need to urgently develop a comprehensive industrial strategy to support steelworks across the UK and address decades of decline and neglect under successive governments.”

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said: “Communities across Britain rely on the jobs our sector brings for their economic success, and the Government needs to start matching their words on steel with their actions.

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace
(Image: PA)

“Using British-made steel wherever possible is not just a matter of pride for the communities that can build a new Britain, but a matter of jobs throughout the country, across supply chains and levelling up some of the areas that have been left behind for decades.

“Steel as an industry is vital to our national prosperity, security and environment, but we need government support to secure that prosperous future.”

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since 2015 when the industry was hammered by plant closures and thousands of job losses.

A Government spokesman said: “The UK government remains committed to supporting a sustainable and competitive long-term future for steel making in the UK, and this work will be spearheaded by the new Business Secretary.

“Wide-ranging action has been taken by the Government to support Britain’s steel industry, including more than £500million in relief for electricity costs, a £250m Clean Steel Fund to support decarbonisation, a commercial loan of £30m which saved 1,000 jobs, and by publishing a steel procurement pipeline on national infrastructure projects worth around £500 million over the next decade.”

It is understood Mr Kwarteng has already met with representatives of Tata and British Steel during his first week in his new job.

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