Government Strategic Support: 15th September 2015

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
7. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Government’s strategic support for industries and sectors. [901329]

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
Through sector councils and meetings with companies across all sectors we will continue to work closely with industry to understand its needs and what more Government can do to retain the UK’s competitive position within the global economy.

Stephen Kinnock
I thank the Minister for her response. Given the crucial role of the steel industry to the British manufacturing sector and our very sense of pride and prestige as an industrialised nation, will you today agree to accelerate the full implementation of the energy-intensive industries package? Crippling energy bills are crippling the steel industry, and it is time for the Government to act.

Anna Soubry
The question was obviously to me, Mr Speaker, but that does not matter. Importantly, we know that the steel industry faces very difficult times. It would be fair to say that these are the most difficult times it has ever faced in this country. We are looking at all the things that the Government can do to continue to assist the steel industry, and we have already started that work, which is one of the reasons why I am going to China next week, specifically to talk to the Chinese about their over-production and the allegations of dumping. I could expand on other points and will no doubt do so in answer to supplementary questions.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con)
Rolls-Royce’s two factories in Barnoldswick are a key part of Pendle’s aerospace supply chain. When I visited Rolls-Royce in Derby in August, bosses told me of the huge benefit of the Government’s aerospace growth partnership. Does my hon. Friend agree that the continuation of that successful partnership is vital for that sector?

Anna Soubry
The short answer is yes. I am more than happy to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency to meet those companies and see the great work that they do. The aerospace sector is incredibly important and I pay tribute to all who work in it and all the success it has had.

Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op)
20. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) is right: there is a crisis in UK steel making and 2,000 jobs in my constituency are at risk. I have secured a Backbench Business debate on Thursday, and I would be grateful if Ministers could come to pledge their support for UK steel making. We have to see action on energy prices and business rates. If we do not, UK steel will have no future. It is up to Ministers now to take action. [901345]

Anna Soubry
I am delighted that the hon. Lady has secured that debate on Thursday and I will be there. It follows on from the debate that we had in Westminster Hall. As we know, there is an over-production of steel across the world. The consumption of steel has fallen dramatically and that has meant, for example, that the price of slab has almost halved. People say we could do something about the price of energy—if only it were that simple. It is hugely complicated. We already have a compensation scheme and we are looking at how we can expand it, but we have to make it clear that if we begin to take the pressure off electricity-intensive industries, we have to shift it somewhere else. It is not as simple as it perhaps seems, but the hon. Lady can be assured that we are well aware of what is happening in SSI UK, which is why I met it last week.

Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)
High energy costs are affecting not only the steel industry—something I know from my own constituency—but the plastics industry. Over the summer recess, I visited both Amaray and RPC in the town. What steps are Ministers taking to help the plastics industry?

Anna Soubry
As I said, we are aware of the particular pressures that high electricity prices put on industries, especially those that use the most, and a compensation package is available. We all want a greener, cleaner environment, so we have set targets that we have to meet, and a cost is associated with that. I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that, especially as it affects the industries in his constituency of Corby.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
The Minister and I have discussed the clear and present dangers to the UK steel industry in a constructive fashion several times since she took her post. Given a summer of deeply worrying developments in the steel industry, not least with the news today from Redcar, can she assure us—notwithstanding what she has said today—that she has the full backing of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to take whatever action is necessary urgently to stand up for the steel industry in the UK?

Anna Soubry
Unfortunately, I was not present at Prime Minister’s questions last week, but I know that the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) put a question to the Prime Minister, who made it very clear that he wants to give his full support to our steel industry. We recognise its importance to the economy and I am delighted that I have had so many very positive meetings with Members, notably Opposition Members, in which we have explored all the difficulties ​in an atmosphere that has been frank about what more we can do. We also have to understand that we are limited in what we can do. The state aid rules just do not help.