THE BLOG

We Must Not Turn Our Backs on Britain's Steelworkers in Their Hour of Need

30/03/2016 15:55

I, along with many other Labour MPs, have campaigned consistently to save our steel industry and we are only too aware that this morning's announcement from the Tata Steel group is a devastating blow not just to their 15,000 employees to the wider future of British steel and the many communities depend on it.

I have made the point that we spent billions propping up our banks when they faced collapse and were told it was in our economic interests. By the same token, I believe saving steel is also in our national economic interest and the government should take similarly decisive action.

Protecting our manufacturing base is vital in any global economy. Internationally, steel will recover and if we have no UK producers then the Chinese and other producers can simply raise prices for our manufacturers in the future.

It is also in the nature of the most advanced technology that is used to produce steel that it cannot simply be turned off, mothballed, and switched on again in future - once these facilities are shut down, it becomes much harder and more costly to start production again in future.

China subsidises their steel industry and they dump cheap subsidised steel into our economy, so it's hardly a free market let alone a competitive playing field. Nor is it impossible to provide any form of state aid while complying with the EU's state aid rules - Italy, for example, moved to protect 14,000 steel jobs in December 2014. Of course, these rules could be usefully reformed to enable even greater action in future - something supported by Labour's MEPs - but they are no excuse for inaction now.

Banks were saved at massive cost when they faced difficult times and it was said to be in our economic interest. Steel has a huge impact on our manufacturing base in terms of production and employment, and the wider effect of a wave of closures would devastate supply chains as well as local and regional economies - not to mention the people and communities who rely on them.

So we cannot turn our backs on them in their hour of need. The government must act now.

Angela Rayner is the Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne and shadow pensions minister

Comments

CONVERSATIONS