I was pleased to join UK Steel in Parliament this week to sign the UK Steel Charter.
The UK steel industry directly employs over 30,000 people, supporting thousands more in constituencies across the UK. Furthermore, these jobs are high skilled and highly paid, with an average wage of £36,000 per annum, this is 46% higher than the average regional wage where the bulk of these jobs are concentrated.
The UK Steel Charter aims to maximise opportunities – not just for these 30,000 workers – but for the UK economy, by encouraging and promoting measures that can be taken in relation to the procurement of steel for major projects.
The Charter builds on the pre-existing public guidance from the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, turning it into practical steps that public and private organisations can publicly commit to. Simple examples include: advertising steel supply opportunities early, engaging with supply chains in advance of tendering, or simply ensuring contractors know and report on the origin of their steel.
A healthy national economy is built upon a healthy steel industry. We have faced some difficult times of late with the dumping of steel by China and other countries onto the international markets. We need a UK Government which supports this vital industry not one that stands idly by. That is why I signed the Steel Charter and why I will continue to press for greater investment.
My colleague Nick Smith MP (Blaenau Gwent) secured a Westminster Hall debate this week on the British Steel pension scheme and the companies who have been trying to mis-sell terrible schemes to those pension holders.
There was an absolute lack of information provided to the pension scheme holders by the UK Government during its transfer and this resulted in a number of companies providing poor advice to deliberately benefit from the proceeds of transfer.
Currently, 17 companies are under investigation. We cannot let steelworkers, either those still working in the industry or those already in retirement, lose their pensions. The UK Government need to take this seriously and ensure a proper investigation is undertaken by authorities and greater protections are in place for pension holders.
The US Government has threatened to impose a tariff to our steel A pause in the imposition of the tariff has been negotiated by the European Union but I wanted to know what the UK Government is doing to ensure the US knows that the 15% of all UK steel sent to America should be permanently exempt from any tariff.
The Secretary of State pointed out the flawed thinking of the US – as much of the steel we produce is of high quality and not made in the States or is used for their defence programmes. But this comes from the same Secretary of State who has promised everyone that he can secure the best trade deal ever imagined between the UK and US. He is proving this is not as easy as he first predicted.
Last week, President Donald Trump unilaterally imposed tariffs on all steel and aluminium products imported into the United States. Only one country has so far been exempt – Australia – meaning that the UK will now face a tariff on all our steel and aluminium products that we want to export to America.
I asked the Secretary of State for Trade – who places much value on the UK’s ability to strike a trade deal with the United States – if he was informed by the his counterparts in the US that these tariffs would be imposed.
Tariffs are bad for businesses, which means they are bad for jobs. We need to ensure that protectionism of this sort doesn’t spread. If this triggers a trade war we will all be worse off.