THE Prime Minister has said he will raise Chinese dumping of steel which is harming the UK industry with the country’s president Xi Jinping in talks at Downing Street this afternoon.
He told the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions that the Chinese Government were aware they currently have a problem with over-capacity and that this is affecting the British industry.
SSI steel plant in Teesside shut this month with the loss of 1700 jobs and Tata announced 1200 job losses at its plant in Scunthorpe.
He also defended the Government’s record within the industry, pointing out that under Labour production and employment in the steel industry had halved and took on questions from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s Redcar MP Anna Turley and Scunthrope MP Nic Dakin.
He was loudly interupted by MP Tom Blenkinsop for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland however when he claimed that they were taking strong action on slashing energy prices for steel plants and procurement.
These are among the requests UK Steel has made to the Government for practical help to cushion the industry from the global market.
Mr Cameron said: “On procurement we changed the procurement rules so it was easier to source UK steel and that is why Crossrail being completed with 26 miles of tunnels - the biggest construction project anywhere in Europe - is using almost exclusively British steel. That didn’t happen under the last Labour government,it does happen now.”
He said: “We do want a strong and viable steel industry. We’ve already but £50m into cutting energy costs and our plans will mean hundreds of millions of pounds extra to cut energy costs.”
However Labour MP Mr Blenkinsop was told to ‘take a sedative’ or calm himself by the speaker John Bercow after he bellowed across the chamber to Mr Cameron ‘you have not’, on his energy help claims.
In a Prime Minister’s Questions dominated by the steel industry, Jeremy Corbyn asked a question from a Tata steel worker based in Scunthorpe, currently working on the Network Rail contract.
Mr Corbyn said: “He wants to know what the PM is going to do to support the steel industry and its workers, who are now facing redundancy.”
David Cameron said: “We do want to help our steel industry. It is in a very difficult situation. World prices have collapsed by more than half.
“The surplus capacity in the world is more than 50 times the UK output. But our plan is to take action in four vital areas.
“Procurement, energy costs, unfair competition and dumping, and in tax and government support.”
Mr Cameron was also challenged by Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin, who asked him if he had raised Chinese steel practices during the President’s visit.
David Cameron said he began talks at a state banquet held for the Chinese President last night but would continue to raise it today.
He said: “The Chinese do recognise that they’ve got huge overcapacity in their own steel industry and that’s an issue they have to address as well.”
He was booed by Labour members however when he added: “I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. We can’t set the steel price here in this House.
We can’t go beyond the sorts of steps I’ve talked about on procurement, on energy and industrial support.”
Mr Cameron ended his time at the despatch box rounding on Labour, who have asked repeatedly for further Government intervention.
He said: “Under Labour, steel production halved, employment in steel halved. Since I’ve been Prime Minister, steel production has gone up and steel employment has stayed at the same level.
“Before we get a self righteous lecture from the party opposite. Look at your own record.”