Yet the industry has faced serious challenges and mass job losses in recent years in the face of foreign competition, not least the dumping of subsidised Chinese steel produced at less than cost price into Europe, which distorted the market.
Nevertheless, British steelmaking can still have a bright future if the industry embraces environmental change – and receives the support to do so it deserves from the Government.
The strategy set out by the shadow business secretary, and Doncaster North MP, Ed Miliband yesterday offers such a way forward. His pledge that Labour would invest £3bn in helping the industry go green is precisely what is needed.
There is merit in his charge that the Government has not done enough to help safeguard steelmaking and protect it from unfair competition. And there is certain to be widespread agreement with his point that it should have supported jobs and manufacturing by buying British to build schools and hospitals rather than spending tens of millions on imported steel.
The business case for helping British steel forge a new future is compelling. It was set out earlier this year by the think-tank IPPR North, which argued that this region and the wider north could become a world leader in producing carbon-neutral steel by 2035.
Harnessing the potential of electrification, carbon capture storage and hydrogen technologies would undoubtedly enable the industry to prosper. It would also invigorate a vital part of Britain’s manufacturing sector, protect many thousands of jobs and create new employment.
The opportunity to do so must not be missed. If the Government is to level up the economy, it needs to support British steel.