Today the UK and Welsh Governments have announced a package of support including pledging taking upto a 25% stake in any takeover of Tata’s UK Strip Products operations.
I welcome this move from the British and Welsh governments. It is an indication of how far the British government has moved in recent weeks and months, indeed it is fair to say that it is a long overdue U-turn. This announcement has come as the result of the relentless pressure that Labour MPs and the steel unions have been exerting within and outside Westminster, exemplified by the fact that we have raised the issue 208 times in the Chamber since the General Election.
The British steel industry makes the finest steel that money can buy and it is not surprising that a number of investors are interested in purchasing the business. The offer that the UK and Welsh governments are making today will enhance the attractiveness of the business even further, which is, of course, a very welcome development.
But this alone will not be enough to save our steel industry. For a sale to be expedited as quickly as possible the British government must also step up to proactively reassure customers and secure the order book. There must also be action to tackle the fundamental challenges and market distortions facing the industry, by taking action on procurement, energy costs and, crucially, by acting against Chinese illegal steel dumping.
Whoever ends up buying Strip Products, it is clear that the underlying issue of anti-dumping is going to be critical. The British government could, at the stroke of a pen, ensure that the British steel industry is able to compete on a level playing field, but, unfortunately, they continue to be the ringleader in blocking the European Commission’s attempts to give anti-dumping measures more teeth. Let us hope that the next U-turn will be the government acknowledging that it should stop rolling out the carpet for Beijing and start standing up for the British steel industry.