Major infrastucture projects are due to use at-risk British steel

THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of an '˜astonishing' lack of cohesion on the future of British steel after listing Tata as the provider of major infrastructure projects in the UK just days before sell-off details emerged.

The UK's largest steel works in Port Talbot, South Wales, which Indian owners Tata are looking to sell.

The Treasury’s six year plan for roads, rail and national infrastructure said Tata would be providing British steel for a ground-breaking North Sea pipeline and Network Rail following this March’s budget.

However within seven days of George Osborne’s financial settlement, the liklihood of British steel eventually being used on the projects took an uncertain turn as Asian multi-national Tata Steel looks to sell off their UK sites, with the potential loss of up to 15,000 jobs.

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Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union, described the Treasury’s commitment on paper to British steel being used in infrastructure projects, while ruling out nationalisation of the ailing industry as nonsensical.

Small Business, Industry and Enterprise minister Anna Soubry

He said: “It’s astonishing. I raised with Business Secretary Sajid Javid way before Christmas my concerns the first we heard of Tata pulling out of steel in the UK. This hasn’t come out of the blue.

“I urged the Secretary of State then to develop a proper strategy to assist the steel industry as part of his infrastructure and manufacturing strategy.

“This has been smoke and mirrors and their inability to respond to the steel crisis is deeply worrying.”

On March 23 the Treasury released its National Infrastructure Delivery Plan for 2016 to 2021 and listed that Tata Steel’s under-threat bases in Wales were due to produce over 18,000 tonnes of steel pipeline for the ground breaking Maersk Culzean gas pipeline under the North Sea.

Small Business, Industry and Enterprise minister Anna Soubry

Tata Steel in Scunthorpe is also listed as ensuring that 98%, or 140,000 tonnes, of the steel rail procured by Network Rail is made in Britain, including carrying out 50% of Network Rail’s welding requirements with the other 50% taking place at their facility in Eastleigh near Southampton.

After criticism for failing to use British steel, most recently in the building of two Royal Navy ships which used Swedish steel, David Cameron and cabinet ministers have made much of their commitment to the procurement of British steel in significant projects.

However with the Tata Steel Group announcing it was looking to sell off its UK sites due to severe financial losses in March 30, the future of British steel production today remains in doubt.

The Government remain in early talks with the company, however the Prime Minister and Business Secretary Sajid Javid have said they do not favour nationalisation.

Mr McCluskey said the Maersk Culzean pipeline project 200km off the coast of Aberdeen and Network Rail would no doubt source steel from abroad so projects can be completed, but it would be a great shame if they didn’t end up being made with British steel.

He said: “I’m calling on the Prime Minister to be patriotic, not only on job losses and the impact on communities, but on the fact it’s a foundation industry.

“Unfortunately it’s ideology ... that the market rules everything... that the market will suffice....but in the meantime 10,000 jobs are going to be lost and the knock-on is phenomenal.

“How can you be the fifth wealthiest country in the world and have a desire to be a manufacturing nation, without having a steel industry? For every steel worker they support another four jobs.

“Infrastructure is key to all of this,” he said.

“They have made clear they are going to use British steel for all of these massive projects, and we would like the Prime Minister to take the lead.”

He is urging Mr Cameron to recall Parliament, describing Tata Steel UK pulling out of Britain as an ‘industrial crisis of enormous proportions’.