This week I organised a meeting with Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, attended by other Welsh MPs with constituency ties to steel, to discuss the challenges facing the industry in Wales and call for Government action.
UK steel must be at the heart of an industrial strategy. It’s a tragedy that Newport’s Orb works – the only plant in the UK making the electrical steels which could be used for electrical vehicles – was mothballed before Christmas, and last week there were further job losses at Liberty in Newport, which has been at the forefront of GreenSteels technology.
During meetings with Government ministers this week with other Welsh and steel MPs, I’ve emphasised that we need urgent action on some of the structural issues the sector faces which are impacting on investment. These include reducing the price disparity between the UK and European competitors on industrial energy costs – UK steel producers currently pay 62% more than their German counterparts and a staggering 80% more than French producers, which hampers competitiveness. We also need radical action on procurement, updating guidelines to ensure that we maximise the use of UK steel in infrastructure projects, and it’s imperative that the UK Government secures a good deal for steel in negotiations with the EU. 45% of all UK steel produce is exported and is vulnerable to any deterioration with our existing trading relationships with EU countries and the rest of the world.
Looking ahead to the Spring Budget, the inclusion of a sector deal for steel would be a huge vote of confidence in an industry which needs and deserves one. I’ll be keeping up the pressure on the Government on this.