Baroness Redfern – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Baroness Redfern on 2015-11-03.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps are being taken to support the United Kingdom steel industry.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe

There is no straightforward solution to the complex global challenges facing the steel industry. However, the Government has been extremely active advocating for and supporting the sector. On 16th October, my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State chaired a Steel Summit, which was an important opportunity to bring the key players together. Since then we have been taking action to address the key asks of the steel industry, operating through three Ministerial led working groups. We are also supporting the metals sector more widely through the industry-led Metals Strategy, which will provide a platform for Government to work with the industry on some of the most pressing issues holding back the future growth of the sector.

We have taken EU and International level action on dumping and unfair trade practices. We supported and voted for the renewal of EU anti-dumping measures on wire rod and recently steel tubing and lobbied successfully for an investigation into cheap imports of Reinforcing Steel Bar. My Rt Hon Friend, the Secretary of State had meetings with European Commissioners and spoke to key counterparts in other Member States on 28 October, calling for firmer, faster action against unfair trade practices. As a direct result, we secured agreement for an extraordinary meeting of the EU’s Competitiveness Council which took place on 9th November. At this Member States agreed that EU level action needed to be taken to address the challenges facing the steel sector. Specifically, the Council agreed to take action to address unfair trading practices, energy costs, investment for modernisation and retraining and the regulatory burden facing the sector.

The Government has confirmed to the steel industry that it will be able to take advantage of special flexibilities to comply with new EU rules on emissions.

Turning to energy costs, we have announced that we will bring forward our compensation package for the industry’s additional costs from climate change policies starting as soon as state aid approval is given by the European Commission. This means that Energy intensive industries will benefit from all compensation at the very earliest opportunity. We have also confirmed that compensation and mitigation arrangements for the costs of climate change policies for Energy Intensive Industries will continue for the whole of the Parliament giving the sectors greater investment confidence. This will save Energy Intensive Industries such as steel hundreds of millions of pounds over the next five years. This will come on top of the more than £50 million we have already paid to steelmakers in compensation for energy costs.

Finally, we are taking action to drive up the number of public contracts won by UK steel manufacturers and their partners through fair and open competition. The National Infrastructure Plan contains a significant number of projects which will use British steel, e.g. Crossrail – with four UK based companies providing over 50,000 tonnes of steel; and HS2 – where Government has already given notice of the thousands of tonnes of steel that will be needed. Following the first meeting of the steel procurement working group chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the Government published on 30 October new guidelines for departments to apply on major projects when sourcing and buying steel. The new instructions will help steel suppliers compete on a level playing field with international suppliers for major government projects.