Today I spoke during the Opposition Day debate on Steel Safeguards.
This is an issue that I have been working with our Steelworks and UK Steel for some time.
More recently, I have
- Written to the Trade Secretary (21st May) and the Trade Remedies Investigative Directorate (TRID) (25th May) following the release of TRID's preliminary determination.
- Added my voice to submissions from our local Steelworks (26th May).
- Met with Trade Minister and Trade Secretary on 26th May to raise this issue.
- Spoke on 9th June in a debate highlighting this issue.
- Following TRA's release of its final recommendations on 11 June, commissioned a House of Commons Library report on the steps that can be taken forward. The report has been shared with fellow MPs, UK Steel, and local Steelworks to coordinate action that can be taken in response.
- I have also highlighted the appeals procedure that is currently being looked at by UK Steel.
- I've also written back to the Trade Secretary and coordinated a letter to the PM discussing the steps that can be taken to resolve this issue.
Throughout this time I have closely coordinated with colleagues across Parliament, with UK Steel, and with our extremely hard working team from British Steel. This is a complicated issue, which involves tricky legislation and existing commitments to the World Trade Organisation, and many colleagues have rightly pointed out that a misstep could result in setbacks and lawsuits.
Whilst I share much of the Opposition's sentiment they have failed to present any concrete solutions or proposals to resolve this pressing issue. I know that the Trade Secretary's team is currently working to find a solution as we speak. I understand the need to be pragmatic in my approach - indeed, as I have mentioned last week, I will continue to work with the government on a wide range of policies to provide a better competitive environment for UK Steelworks.
In that spirit of working with all colleagues in finding the best solution for our steelworks, I have made the decision not to vote against the Opposition motion, as part of my commitment to work with all sides on behalf of our Steelworks.
I am pleased that follow my interventions today I was able to secure a meeting with the Prime Minister to raise this with him in full directly. As Scunthorpe's representative, I know that our steelworkers will want me to try every single option and work with all sides to secure what is best for Scunthorpe.
You can find the text of my full speech here:
I am aware that many learned colleagues wish to speak this evening, so I will get straight to the point and I will keep my remarks specific to the TRA safeguards issue. As colleagues will know, my RHF the Trade Secretary will decide whether to accept the Trade Remedy Authorities recommendations on steel safeguards, their recommendations are to remove Safeguard protections for almost half of UK steel "product categories". As it stands, if she does not accept that recommendation, then all safeguard protections will expire by the end of this month, and I accept my Rt Hon Friends hands may be somewhat tied in that regard.
I have put on record my opposition to the TRA's preliminary recommendations in pretty frank terms, and I know many colleagues have spoken about the issue in Parliament, have fed views back to the TRA, and have raised this issue with the dept for international trade.
Despite this extensive feedback, a week later the TRA's final recommendations still overlooked many of the arguments that were made from both sides of this house. - that it did not take a sufficiently industry-led assessment, - that it did not use ISSB data and used HMRC instead - and that it did not sufficiently consider the impact of recent events on the UK Steel industry.
Reading the final recommendations it is clear that the TRA is to some degree a hostage of the rigid terms set out in the Trade Remedies Regulations - it is not forward-looking in its assessment, and regrettably, some decisions were made despite data being insufficient.
Mr Speaker, I am sure many across the House will agree that decisions that affect the lives and livelihoods of our constituents cannot be made in this way and will agree that we now need further proactive solutions to support the industry.
We must look at whether reform of the Trade Secretary's powers is required to allow safeguard assessments to be conducted in part by Ministers who have an understanding of the bigger picture, who are in a position to make a decision about the trade-offs, and who are accountable for their decision making.
I thank my Rt Hon friend the Prime minister for his commitment to this issue and for agreeing to meet with me. This will be a welcome discussion Mr Speaker, and I urge the government to explore how we can make World Trade Organisation -complaint changes in legislation to allow the Trade Secretary the option to "Take back control" and consider whether it is legally possible to extend our existing Steel Safeguards.
SPEAKLY PLAINLY – it is clear to me that when the EU are set to keep all 19 of their steel safeguards and we are only set to keep 10 that that risks putting us at a disadvantage.
Mr Speaker, I was born in Scunthorpe and I was there in 2018 and 19 when the steelworks were at huge risk, I saw first-hand how much effort and funding the Conservative Government put in place to support jobs.
My words tonight are not a comment on the government's previous support for steel, they are a comment on the TRA’s recommendations and how we react to them, they are a very plain ask of government to help the steel industry again -because I believe that this government’s instinct is to support the steel industry. No one in this country can go a single day without steel, it is a special case, it is a foundation industry. This issue affects my constituents, people I grew up with – it must be a priority and I will work with hon and rt hon members from across this house to fight for the interests of steelworkers in Scunthorpe.