In the eleven years I have been a Member of Parliament, the Commons has been recalled for military action, riots and Baroness Thatcher’s death. We should be recalled NOW to debate how we save our vital steel industry and, if necessary, grant the Government the emergency powers to take it into temporary state control.
The idea that we would be called back for tributes to a former Prime Minister but not for a major industrial crisis is farcical.
Lord Mandelson, the Labour Business Secretary under Gordon Brown, has agreed that the Government should consider temporarily nationalising Tata’s UK steel business until a viable rescue plan can be formed. Nothing should be taken off the table.
Steel is crucial to our future defence and energy security needs. It is fundamental to the production of cars, naval and civil shipbuilding, and the construction industry. Our future nuclear power stations will have huge amounts of steel in them. About ninety-four per cent of the steel used in the construction of the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers is British. No other major military power has lost its indigenous steel production. The Tories are not just playing fast and loose with jobs and livelihoods – they are neglecting our nation’s security.
The bottom line is that steel is one of those key parts of a nation’s industrial economy, and once the capability has been lost, it is incredibly difficult to re-establish it.
As sure as night follows day, the Chinese will eventually stop ‘dumping’ steel on the world market, the price of steel will increase again as demand rises – and we won’t have an industry left. This industry can be saved, and it must be saved. Steel is a strategic UK-wide industry that is vital for our economy in the future.
The Government must do everything possible to protect the industry as it faces this existential threat. It must continue to look for a new buyer, and it must consider restructuring, the cancellation of debt, or full-scale temporary nationalisation.