Grantham MP Nick Boles’ Column: Government is taking steps to help protect our steel industry

Conservative Nick Boles
Conservative Nick Boles
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The hearts of all the Journal’s readers will go out to those workers in the British steel industry who have just been told that they are going to lose their jobs, especially those in Lincolnshire.

Following the closure of SSI in Redcar at the cost of over 2,000 jobs, Tata Steel has announced that 900 workers in Scunthorpe will be made redundant, as well as 270 in Lanarkshire in Scotland.

So what is going on? And what is the government doing about it?

The problems in the British steel industry stem from a global slump in steel consumption and a glut in production.

This has led to a collapse in the price of steel which has nearly halved in the past year.

We cannot legislate for higher steel prices, but we can press the European Union to take action against the dumping of low-cost steel by Chinese producers – indeed we have already done so.

Following pressure from the British government, in March the EU imposed tariffs of up to 25 per cent on imports of steel sheet, coil and strip from China.

And the Prime Minister has taken the opportunity of the state visit by the President of China to press him for action to stop unfair competition by Chinese producers.

We can also take action to ensure that British steel producers are not forced to pay much more for electricity than their competitors: the government has already put £50 million into ensuring a more level playing field.

We have done this because we want to retain as much as possible of Britain’s steel industry. But we also need to recognise that many of those who have lost their jobs may feel there are better long-term prospects in other industries. So we will give them all the support they need to retrain and get new jobs, as well as help in setting up their own businesses.

No government can insulate its steel producers from the harsh realities of a global market. But we can protect those who work in it and help them get back on their feet. That is exactly what we must now do.