Too Little, Too Late

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Following the Steel Summit held in Rotherham today, Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock said, 

'For years now UK steel-makers have been trying to get the government to wake up and take notice of the growing crisis afflicting the steel industry, and to do something about it. To this end they have consistently been putting forward five 'asks', which are:

  1. Fully implement the Energy Intensive Industry Compensation Package ahead of April 2016. The sector is currently still paying 70% of the policy costs that the full Package aims to address
  2. Continue to back EU-level action on anti-dumping measures which support the UK steel sector against the rapid rise in global imports and push the European Commission to speed up its investigation process and action
  3. Bring Business Rates for capital intensive firms in line with their competitors in France and Germany, by removing plant and machinery from business rate calculations
  4. Don’t gold plate regulations unfairly and deliver pragmatic implementation of regulatory frameworks vital to the sector on a realistic timetable (e.g. Industrial Emissions Directive).
  5. Support local content in major construction projects: British steel must have every opportunity to be at the heart of HS2 – the Government must look to unlock the significant opportunities for the steel sector and to strengthen supply chains on this and other major projects.

 I thought, naively as it turned out, that the purpose of the summit today was for the Secretary of State to finally show that he understands that the government cannot continue looking the other way. Why else would such a group of over 40 busy people be summoned to Rotherham at short notice?

It is particularly difficult to understand the government's apparent failure to grasp the fact that doing nothing is by far the most expensive option. The hard closure of the Redcar steel plant will cost the taxpayer in excess of £1 billion in closure and clean-up costs alone. Further such shut-downs will cost the exchequer additional billions. Surely the Chancellor and Prime Minister understand that their much-vaunted plans to eliminate the deficit will be shot to pieces unless they intervene now to save the steel industry?

All those who made the journey to Rotherham did so on the assumption that the Secretary of State would be setting out a clear and detailed action plan on each of the five asks. But instead of that, we got a talking shop.

The Rotherham meeting was long on analysis and debate, but very short on solutions. There was no action plan whatsoever, apart from a promise to set up a few working groups.

I didn't go to Rotherham for tea and sympathy. I went to Rotherham to hear clear, detailed and time-bound commitments.

With the prospect of further job losses in the steel industry in Scotland next week, we are at ten minutes to midnight.

We need a little less conversation and a little more action, and we need it now.'