THE DEVASTATING closure of steel and iron works on Teesside brings shame on the Government, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The SSI plant at Redcar, which is a large employer for people living in North Yorkshire, announced it would close yesterday with the loss of 1700 jobs.
The new Labour leader and his deputy Tom Watson told MPs and activists at an emotional meeting at the party’s conference last night in Brighton that they would travel up to the region to help where they could.
News the plant would close swept through the conference, with an emergency motion tabled by Redcar MP Anna Turley to review state aid rules, which the Government say prevents them from intervening to help.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “What’s happened in Teesside and Redcar is an example of everything that is wrong with the economic policies of this government and this country. Major industry, an amazing skill base, an amazing record of producing steel which has made so much of this country - the Victoria Line to the bridges and all the other things in between. It’s been closed down. Basically it’s like losing a ship for a ha’porth of tar.”
Calling on the Government to pledge financial help, Mr Corbyn said there were many ways to help if they were serious about defending manufacturing.
The Government has so far said EU rules on providing state aid to a struggling steel plant is forbidden. However Mr Corbyn said there are ways to help and cited Italy as an example of an EU country which fought to save steel after its Government took over the management of the Ilva plant.
Dumping policies - exporting steel to other countries at a price below the cost of production - have made the British steel industry vulnerable and Mr Corbyn said more could have been done to stand up to the practice.
He said: “The Government could have quite easily intervened if it had wanted to. Instead it’s not prepared to stand up to the dumping policies of other Governments, particularly the Chinese Government, on steel around the world.
“It’s not prepared to learn the lesson that the Italian Government could have quite easily have taught them - that you can intervene. You can intervene either temporarily or permanantly - there’s lots of ways you can do it, if you are serious about defending the economic infrastructure of the manufacturing base of this country. They have failed to do so. Shame on them.”
‘North Night’, a once not-to-be-missed event on the conference calender under Tony Blair, and which was once compered by Kevin Spacey aned had Bill Clinton as a guest, took a sombre turn last night as members discussed the loss of another Northern industry.
MP Anna Turley, who earlier in the day addressed the conference in a Save Our Steel campaign T-shirt, had rushed back to Redcar to try and help workers last night, and the work of Teesside MPs Alex Cunningham and Tom Blenkinsop was noted by new Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.
Mr Watson said: “It is a sad occasion for those workers and I know you will all stand in solidarity with those Teesside workers.
“When I was on the platform to see Anna’s contribution and Tom and Andy on the front row and it made me proud to be a Labour MP.
“We all stand in solidarity with you and if there is anything we can do to help those workers we will come up and help.”