UK Steel Industry: 12th April 2016

Tom Blenkinsop
The Secretary of State said that the Government would do everything possible for the communities and people affected. As he knows, on the day of the liquidation at Redcar, he announced an £80 million total package—
The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
It is £90 million.

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
I begin by paying tribute to all those who have spoken in the debate. With few if any exceptions, everyone has rightly spoken with passion in their heart on behalf of their constituents and our great British steel industry. It is important that we look to the future and make sure that the message sent out from this place in all our doings is one of confidence in the continuing success of our British steel industry. Over the past seven days, I have had the real pleasure of going to Rotherham. I pay tribute to the wise words of the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith), although I do not always agree with her. I went to Rotherham, and I now understand speciality steels, which are separate from the great work being done at Port Talbot; they are almost a stand-alone industry. I then went to Corby and had a great day there meeting excellent workers and excellent management, all of whom are rightly proud of the superb quality of the products that they make.

It is really important that this message of confidence should continue to unite us, for the sake of customers and suppliers alike. Despite the unfortunate remarks made by the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), there is much that brings us together on this important matter. We all agree that steel is a vital industry, and that this crisis is not confined to the United Kingdom. We should also agree that, unfortunately, the Government do not have a magic wand with which to control the price of steel. We agree that the industry is vital for not just our national economy but, as we have heard from many hon. Members, the important role that it plays in local communities, through the workers it employs directly and through the supply chain right the way through the regions. In South Wales, for example, the industry is a vital component of the continuing success of that part of our United Kingdom.

I want to pay tribute to my Secretary of State for his tireless work and his outstanding leadership throughout this crisis. One of the problems we have had since we were appointed to our positions last May is that so much has been commercially sensitive. I am looking forward to the day when I will be the first to stand up and talk about the sort of work that this Secretary of State has been quietly and privately leading. That work began as soon as we were appointed. The reason why we get so agitated on this side of the House when we have these debates is that we started delivering for the steel industry even before the tragedy of Redcar, which I will deal with in a moment. That is why I ignored the advice of my officials and said that this country would vote in favour of tariffs on dumped steel. That is what we did in July and again in November.

With losses of £600 million over some three years, the situation in Redcar was very different. Debts ran to tens of millions of pounds, and not only did the local company go bust, but so did the parent company in Thailand. The contrast between SSI and Tata is stark. We would all agree that Tata is an excellent, responsible employer, and we look forward to supporting it in all we do to ensure a successful sale and a successful future for our steel industry.​

Question put and agreed to.