Campaigning Don Valley MP continues support for Government's Steel Support Group

Campaigning Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint, welcomed vital industry talks to Doncaster in support of the Government’s Steel Support Group.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 3:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 4:12 pm
Caroline Flint MP

She offered beer and sandwiches to the group as it continues to seek a buyer for British Steel, owners of the Scunthorpe steelworks.

During an urgent question in the Commons, the MP asked when further talks would begin with the whole steel industry and unions to establish a Sector Deal for the UK steel industry.

The MP challenged Business Secretary Greg Clark over whether there were any barriers to opening talks aimed at securing a Sector Deal - an industry-wide investment and development plan for steel which would seek to place the UK steel industry on a level playing field with its European rivals.

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Speaking after the Commons urgent question, Ms Flint said: “The Government appears to have learned the lessons of past steel closures and has brought together a Steel Support Group to help find a buyer for British Steel.

“But long term, this industry needs a sector deal, which has to bring together every major UK steel firm and the trade unions, the Community Union, Unite and GMB with Government to thrash out the essentials of a sector deal. This industry needs action on energy costs, on Government procurement of UK steel and on long term investment opportunities.

“A sector deal cannot come soon enough. Steel is one of the UK’s foundation industries and vital for our manufacturing. I want the Government to guarantee its support to see the industry through this tough time.”

The Don Valley MP has lobbied Government to guarantee the future of the Scunthorpe steel works, which has been in administration since 22 May. The Government set up a Steel Support Group including industry and trade unions to seek to buyer to secure the future of the British Steel group. The Government has also used indemnities to underwrite the Scunthorpe works. The Support Group meets regularly in Doncaster, where the talks are held.

The full exchange was: Caroline Flint: “I know from trusted colleagues in trade unions, particularly Community Union, that they are thankful for the positive approach the Secretary of State has taken to his dealings with them. I’m glad Doncaster is providing the venue for talks and everybody party to that is welcome to come to my house for beer and sandwiches if it helps in any way. But the Secretary of State has mentioned a couple of times about securing a steel sector deal and he alluded to this being one of the issues that the industry should think about. Does he still believe that getting those talks under way again at the earliest possible opportunity is crucial, and what other main headline issues need to either be sorted, or discussed, or broached in order to get those talks up and running at the earliest opportunity?”

Greg Clarke: “I’m grateful to the Honourable Lady. It has been good to meet in Doncaster – it might seem a surprising place to meet but it’s quite convenient for both Scunthorpe and Teesside, and London – but the invitation to go to the Honourable Lady’s is a very inviting one that I’m sure the support group will want to take on. In terms of the sector deal, its made good progress but all sector deals are about investment and it has been a feature of the steel industry in recent years that the investment in the future has not been at the level of some other industries where we’ve concluded deals: life sciences, automotive, aerospace, and others. So it’s not in any sense that the talks have broken down – it requires the investment to be made. I hope that, if there is to be a successful resolution at British Steel, that might provide the ability to do precisely that.”