Speaking at Prime Minister’s Question today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the plight of Liberty Steel, which has plants in Rotherham, Stocksbridge, and Scunthorpe.
He told the Commons: “5,000 jobs are at risk at Liberty Steel with many more in the supply chain. The UK steel industry is under huge pressure and the Government’s failure to prioritise British steel in infrastructure projects is costing millions of pounds in investment.
“So will the Prime Minister now commit to working with us and the trade unions to change this absurd situation to put British steel first and do whatever is necessary to protect those jobs?”
Mr Johnson said was “happy to cooperate in any way”, however he added: “But the steel output halved under the Labour government. I share very much the anxiety of families with steelworkers who work in Liberty Steel.”
He said: “That’s why the Business Secretary has had I think three meetings just in the last few days with Liberty Steel to take the question forward, see what we can do. We are actively engaged, we’re investing huge sums in modernising British steel.”
Penistone and Stocksbridge Conservative MP Miriam Cates said without steel, the UK cannot reach its commitment to Net Zero by 2050, or its infrastructure targets.
“But Stocksbridge speciality steel in my constituency does have an uncertain future because of the funding challenges faced by Liberty Group,” she said. “And the Stocksbridge works is a strategic asset of national importance.”
She asked the Prime Minister for assurances that “the Government will do what it takes to safeguard jobs and livelihoods and secure the future of steelmaking in the UK”.
Mr Johnson said the Government “passionately believes” in the steel industry.
“We're supporting the UK steel industry with that with more than £500m of relief but also with huge investments to make our steelmaking more greener [sic] and more competitive,” he said.
“And we will do everything we can to ensure that we continue with British jobs for producing British steel with the infrastructure investments that I mentioned, and directing that procurement at British jobs in the way that we now can.”
Liberty owns 12 steel plants in the UK and employs 5,000 people.
The collapse of the company’s main financial backer, Greensill Capital, earlier this month has led to concerns about the future of those jobs.