Protect steel industry or 'decimate communities', Labour warns

Labour has warned of an ongoing crisis in the steel industry which could “decimate” communities.

Shadow Business Secretary and Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband has written to the Government calling for better plans for the sector, both reflecting coronavirus and long-term issues.

The party wants to see better access to loans for steel manufacturers, plus innovation to allow the industry to switch to low carbon production methods.

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Mr Miliband said:““This crisis has shown once again that we neglect our manufacturing base at our peril. It is vital to our success and resilience as a country.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband. Photo: PAShadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband. Photo: PA
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband. Photo: PA | pa

“We have seen steelworkers across the country stepping up to support our NHS through this crisis, and now ministers must step in to protect this vital British industry now and into the future. Steel makes a critical contribution to the economic success of many communities and has a key role to play in boosting our economy.

“Steel can be at the forefront of the low carbon transition we need. But it needs Government to step up now to make it happen. There is significant potential support in the pipeline. It needs to be brought forward to help secure the industry’s future.”

Labour said that across places such as Yorkshire, Humberside, and Wales there are around 32,600 well paid steel jobs.

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And in a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma Mr Miliband and Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell said the Government needed to “move beyond dialogue to action if we are to avoid the decimation of our manufacturing base”.

He said steel plants and manufacturing sites across the country had remained open during the coronavirus crisis and maintained vital machinery and steel for scalpels, as well as Nightingale Hospital beds.

Ms Powell added: “A successful steel sector underpins a successful British economy.

“A key test for ministers is whether they back the industry and buy British for the infrastructure plans they have in the pipeline. Steel should be at the heart of plans to boost our economy, and ensure the recession to come is not too deep and damaging for industry and individuals.”

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The Government said that firms facing a failure during the coronavirus crisis that would “disproportionately harm the economy” could be given more support on a “last resort” basis.

The Treasury has said support might be considered in exceptional circumstances and where a company had exhausted all other options.