The Government’s handling of the steel crisis was repeating the ‘short sightedness’ that saw an £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters cancelled in 2010 - and it threatened regional prosperity and national security, Labour MP Dan Jarvis said.
The Barnsley Central MP claimed the loss of hundreds of jobs in the sector in recent weeks showed it 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.
He spoke out 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.
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. Today, 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.”
Mr Jarvis said the northern economy was worth £300bn, making it the 10th largest economy in Europe, home to 1m businesses, 29 universities and eight airports.
But the country was more regionally unbalanced than any in Europe and rebalancing it away from “fragile growth, consumer debt and soaring house prices” should be a national priority.
He added: “Devolution offers us the greatest opportunity to re-make the state and empower people in a generation.”
The Northern Powerhouse summit saw the publication of IPPR North’s ‘The State of the North 2015’ report which sets benchmarks to test whether the Northern Powerhouse project was working, covering prosperity, skills, investment and devolution.
Director Ed Cox said: “The Tories have realised if they want to get the public finances into a better state, they need the North to be contributing to growth, this also brings the welfare bill down and politically could create quite a lot of opportunity.
“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.”