UK Government would rather cosy up to Beijing than stand up for British steelworkers

 Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab) Before I start, I want to pay tribute to the 13 steelworkers who are in the Public Gallery today along with the outstanding general secretary of the Community union, Roy Rickhuss. I also want to join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to Carwyn Jones, who has been doing a fantastic job. What a contrast to the British Government.

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab) Before I start, I want to pay tribute to the 13 steelworkers who are in the Public Gallery today along with the outstanding general secretary of the Community union, Roy Rickhuss. I also want to join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to Carwyn Jones, who has been doing a fantastic job. What a contrast to the British Government. Within days, Carwyn Jones had put £60 million on the table, so he is someone who is actually closing the gap—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. I said when the Secretary of State was speaking that he should be heard with courtesy and the same goes for the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock). It is not appropriate for people to yell “shame” at an hon. Member who is asking a legitimate question. Learn it.

Stephen Kinnock: I hope that the UK Government will take note of the fact that the Welsh Assembly Government so rapidly put £60 million on the table.

The Secretary of State asked for some focused suggestions and questions, so here are three for him. First, what are the Government doing to secure the customer base—key clients such as Honda, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover? I hope he and his colleagues are picking up the phone to those customers and ensuring that we retain the integrity of the order book. Secondly, on the blast furnaces, I would like to follow up on what was asked by my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State. Does the Secretary of State believe that the blast furnaces in Port Talbot should continue as an integral part of the UK steelmaking industry? Thirdly, can he explain why the British Government continue to block the scrapping of the lesser duty rule? The entire industry and the European Commission repeatedly tell us that by scrapping that rule we would give the anti-dumping measures real teeth to deal with the dumping of Chinese steel. Perhaps the reason is that the UK Government would rather cosy up to Beijing than stand up for British steelworkers.

Sajid Javid: First, let me say that this is obviously a very difficult situation for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. I am working with him, and I stand ready to work in any way I can to help him and to listen to what he has to say. The meeting I have already had with him was very useful, but I look forward to many more as we jointly try to help with this situation. He asked three questions, one of which was about the customer base. One of the most important things we can do—and we are doing it—is provide confidence that we can help to find a buyer that will secure the long-term interest of the steelworks, because that is what the customer base is going to want. We are in touch with many parts of the customer base—I talked earlier about the auto and aerospace industries—and providing that confidence is going to be key to reassuring them that they do not need to look elsewhere.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the blast furnaces, which I went to see in action just last week. They are hugely important, but I do not think I am in a position to say exactly what the structure of the business should be going forward. We will work with all parties to make sure that we can secure as many jobs as possible and that steelmaking continues. Lastly, he asked about the lesser duty rule. I point out to him that it has been the long-standing view of the previous Labour Government and this Government that in general the lesser duty rule gets the right balance in terms of the interests of industry and consumers. The last two British Trade Commissioners that were sent to Brussels, both appointed by Labour and both Labour peers, strongly supported that rule. As I said earlier, what I am interested in is what actually works to help the industry and what we have seen so far is that the tariffs imposed actually work, leading to massive reductions in Chinese imports.

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