Steel crisis ‘puts our national security at risk’

The Government’s handling of the steel crisis is repeating the ‘short sightedness’ that saw an £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters cancelled in 2010 in a way that threatens regional prosperity and national security, a South Yorkshire MP has claimed.

Labour MP Dan Jarvis
Labour MP Dan Jarvis

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said the loss of hundreds of jobs in the sector in recent weeks showed the Government had no clear industrial strategy. It also meant the country’s nuclear energy future was being paid for with Chinese investment and built by the French, according to the Labour MP.

Mr Jarvis spoke at a Northern Powerhouse summit at Sheffield Town Hall organised by left-leaning think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research North, and attended by senior Labour figures including Lord Prescott.

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Mr Jarvis insisted devolution and attempts to rebalance the economy must go hand-in-hand with a proper industrial strategy.

He added: “Our Government should have an official view about Britain’s future industrial capacity. But instead they are offering the same short-sighted excuses they used to withdraw support from Sheffield Forgemasters in 2010.

“That loan would have positioned Forgemasters as a premier producer of components for nuclear power stations. And it’s not only workers on Teeside who have been let down. Deciding whether we preserve some of the best coke ovens, and the largest blast furnace in our country, has consequences for our national security as well as regional prosperity.

“Because it undermines our freedom and our influence if we become overly-reliant on other countries for essential resources that we will need in the future.

“These are decisions are of profound national importance – and we shouldn’t wander into them without considering the long-term strategic implications for our country.

“Yet it is not clear if letting these steelworks close has been factored into the Strategic Defence and Security Review, or if the matter has even been discussed by the National Security Council. It feels foolish when the economic conditions could easily change in a few years’ time.”

The Northern Powerhouse summit saw the publication of IPPR North’s ‘The State of the North 2015’ report which set benchmarks for the Northern Powerhouse project - covering cover prosperity, skills, investment and devolution - to to test whether it was working.

Director Ed Cox said: “The thing that’s so important about today is that people are in the North are starting to set the agenda for themselves. Our report is a first attempt to benchmark and test the Tories’ rhetoric.”