Keeping the UK’s steel industry afloat will be one of the biggest post-Brexit tests for the government, according to a Labour MP.
Caroline Flint, who represents Don Valley, said British steel firms must be given the best possible chance to supply major projects including HS2 and the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.
She submitted a written question to ministers asking how much steel required for HS2 will be sourced in the UK and says the government must continue to provide weekly updates on upcoming contracts available for British firms to bid for.
“How we support our homegrown industry and economy post-Brexit is going to be a real test for the government,” she told HuffPost UK.
“One of the biggest threats will be from countries like China potentially over-producing steel and distorting the market and they must be robust in dealing with that.
“They haven’t covered themselves in glory so far, but they appear to be taking steps. It is a case of keeping the pressure on and ensuring British firms have the chance to play a part in significant projects.”
She said the government cannot allow other projects to be run in the same way as the Queensferry Crossing - a major bridge being constructed in Fife - where half of the materials were supplied by Chinese firms and the other half from Poland and Spain.
She added: “We have to keep our eye on the ball with things like HS2. Part of securing the UK’s future is identifying the opportunities we don’t currently, and making sure we have a rebalanced economy.
“We need to create the workforce that Britain needs and have an environment where traditional industries are supported. We need to move away from the current obsession with the finance industry and London and the south of England.”
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union said HS2 - a huge rail infrastructure project which will eventually link London, Manchester and the West Midlands with high-speed trains - should be built using only British steel.
Construction on the first phase of the project is due to get underway by 2018.
He added: “The steelworkers at Scunthorpe make some of the best rail track in the world, and HS2 should be supporting those jobs.
“Government ministers have previously offered assurances on steel procurement for HS2, we now need them to recommit to using British steel wherever possible in this vitally important infrastructure project.”